Monday, December 6, 2010

One Step Ahead: Curing business 'headaches' for good

7 Simple Steps to Permanently Eliminating the Problems
That Are Holding Your Business Back
By Rich Schefren

The chief cause of entrepreneurial failure is often what I call "death by a thousand cuts:" The relentless blitz of problem after problem caused by recurring inefficiencies and dysfunctional or missing systems.

All of this leads to constant fire-fighting and continual distractions. You end up dealing with the same headaches over and over again.

These time-wasters undermine your efforts to create and sell a good product that has a viable market. They also keep you chained to your business without any chance of ever achieving a true level of success - what I refer to as "Founder Status."

The key to getting rid of your recurring headaches is to find permanent solutions to your problems, rather than just address each problem temporarily.

Today, I'll tell you exactly how to eradicate these recurring headaches for good.

If you understand what I'm about to tell you... If you change the way you approach the problems in your business... I absolutely, positively guarantee you that your business life will change dramatically. You'll solve problems once and for all, your business will gain the momentum it needs to get increasingly better results, and soon you'll have more free time than you can ever remember.

One of the big secrets to true business success is this: Solve recurring problems once - and solve them for good.

I've talked before about how important it is to systemize your business. In fact, you can completely and permanently eliminate headaches by using systems.

So, when something happens in your business that you do not like - customers aren't happy, shipments are late, or bills aren't paid on time - here's what you do. Rather than just taking care of the obvious headache in front of you, do some detective work and figure out the real source of the headache.

In other words, don't just address the headache temporarily. Instead, find the source of the problem and get rid of it forever with a system.

Listen, a problem is not a disappointment just to be corrected and then written off. It's a wake-up call.

Yes, you correct the immediate negative effects. But then you must take a second step. This second step is key: You trace the problem to its root-cause... Then fix the root problem with a system to ensure the problem never happens again.

Addressing the problem and then taking this second step to permanently and systematically fix the cause of the problem... That's what distinguishes the entrepreneurs who become Founders from the entrepreneurs who are stuck in their business or the entrepreneurs who fail.

I want to share a personal business experience that clearly illustrates where you want to focus your efforts in order to achieve the best results.

Hiring an Idiot or a Breakdown in a System?

About six years ago, I decided it was time to grow my online business. Realizing there was no way I could do everything by myself, I hired two employees.

One of my new employees was David. He was a nice guy who knew computers much better than I did.

But things never worked out with David. He made mistakes constantly. He never delivered the expected improvements I was counting on. In the end, I had to let him go. To put it bluntly, I was convinced that David was an idiot.

For a normal, non-systems-perspective entrepreneur, David's idiocy would have been enough of an explanation. The thinking would go something like this: David is an idiot... I can't afford to have idiots working for me... So I need to fire David, and find someone smarter to work with me.

But a system-oriented entrepreneur (one destined for Founder-level success) would look at the whole problem differently. Instead of simply writing David off as an idiot, he would look at the overall business system and answer a few questions. Such as:

1. What was it about our hiring system that allowed us to hire an idiot?

2. What management systems could we create to alert us of David's idiocy earlier, so we wouldn't have suffered the consequences we did?

3. What trainings process should we have in place to train this idiot so either he would develop the skill set we required or we'd have known he was going to be a problem much earlier in the process?

You see, by looking at David's presence in the business as a breakdown of a system or systems, the systems-thinking entrepreneur can identify the root cause of how an idiot came to work for him in the first place.

The normal, non-system-thinking entrepreneur would fire David and immediately try to find a better employee. Sure, this would solve the immediate problem: Ridding the company of a bad employee. But it doesn't get to the root cause; there's no improvement to the business or the overall process of hiring. This opens the business up to a similar problem in the future.

You need to shift your perspective so you can see the systems surrounding you... And realize that every unwanted effect in your business is the result of a missing or faulty system.

By taking this "breakdown in a system" approach, you can make the necessary adjustments to prevent a problem from ever happening again. So the business doesn't make the same mistake again, and you can avoid a future catastrophe.

From this point forward, whenever a problem arises, instead of looking for a person to blame, look for a system to blame.

In other words, don't think about it as, "So and so let me down"... Instead, ask yourself, "What caused the system to deliver this result? Where and why did the system breakdown?"

Believe it or not, just this shift in thinking can set off a positive chain of improvements in your business.

Eliminate Headaches Permanently With the Frustration Elimination Process

If you've been struggling with any reoccurring issue, challenge, or problem in your business... And it feels like no matter what you do... It keeps resurfacing, showing its ugly head... That's all going to change from this point forward.

Now that you know the right way to redefine your problems (as missing or faulty systems), I'm going to show you an entirely new approach to solving problems in your business. And you'll be a pro at eliminating any problems from any business so they never reoccur.

In short, you're about to become more effective at solving business problems permanently.

To solve problems effectively, you must be able to:

1. Identify the real cause - the root cause - of the problem.

2. Create a new system to solve it.

Without a systems approach, most people's gut reaction is to focus on people, behaviors, and events associated with the problem instead. But once again, these are almost never the real cause of the breakdown, they're simply symptoms. Which means anything you do to improve the symptom (instead of the system) will be a band-aid approach at best.

Pay very close attention: The very next time somebody doesn't deliver, or somebody disappoints you, you need to stop thinking that it's that person's fault.

Just to be clear... This doesn't mean that the person isn't responsible for the error or failure; what it means is that if you had the right system in place, the problem wouldn't have happened. In other words, the person who disappointed you wouldn't have had the chance to disappoint you.

If you get this, if you use it to change the way you work, your business life will improve by leaps and bounds.

The Frustration Elimination Process is extremely simple. To show it to you in action, let's revisit the story I told you earlier about David, the idiot I hired when I first got serious about growing my online business.

1. Identify a problem in your business.

The problem is I have this idiot David working for me who's screwing up my business and costing me lots of money.

2. Reframe it as a systems problem - from who to what.

Our staffing system is not working properly; it's hiring idiots instead of winners.

3. Probe, get specific, and quantify to get at the root of the problem.

Let's see....

* Did I clearly define the job and the responsibilities before searching for a candidate?

* Did I interview properly to assess David's skill-set and to make sure it was a good fit?

* Did we conduct a trial run of some sort to make sure he was really what we were looking for, and we were really what he was looking for?

* Was training provided? And if so, how did it go?

* When did the first performance issue surface, and was it handled appropriately?

* And so on...

4. Get clear about the problem.

The real problem is we don't have an optimized hiring system. Therefore we're making costly mistakes.

5. Get clear about the outcome you wanted.

I wanted to hire a great candidate for the job, someone who could easily meet the job's current responsibilities, and become a valuable team member to help get our business off the ground. Plus, the new employee would go through a series of trainings to help get him/her up to speed in the shortest period of time possible. (I would actually go much further here, but you should be able to grasp the concept.)

6. Finish the sentence: "The solution is to install a system that will [outcome desired]."

The solution is to install two systems:

System #1 will locate, recruit, hire, and bring on board the ideal candidate for the responsibilities of the job... Someone who stands to become a valuable team member in our company.

System #2 will begin training the new employee before his/her first day, and then continue on for the first few weeks of employment to get the employee up to speed and productivity as soon as possible. This system will also serve as a confirmation process that the new employee is intelligent enough to stay in the position.

7. Define the specific system solution and assign the task of creating it.

Here in step seven is where the real systemization work is done.
Once you know the outcomes you want the new system (or systems) to provide, you can go about creating the system yourself... Or assign it to someone else inside your business.

As you can see, the Frustration Elimination Process is simple. But it is also extremely effective.

And ALWAYS REMEMBER: The more problems you handle this way, the fewer headaches you'll have in your business.

More importantly, the more systems you put in place, the easier it will be for your business to continually improve, and the less it needs you. Which means more time away from the business, more freedom, and ultimately more life to live.

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