No matter how difficult the problem, there is always a quick fix. And with so many fires to put out, the quick solution is often welcome by business owners because it allows you to move on to the next crisis or opportunity.
By definition, a quick fix is a problem-solving technique which involves using the fastest solution to keep the problem from escalating or recurring in the near future.
Solving the immediate problem quickly is a good thing, especially when it impacts customers, team or money. But the quick fix is often nothing more than a band-aid. It doesn’t address the root cause; it’s not the long-term solution. The problem will likely return again.
Is It a System Or People Issue?
Here’s an example to demonstrate this point. Your technician performed a service. The customer was unhappy and called to complain. You apologize and send someone out to re-do the work and smooth over the customer. Problem solved. The customer is now satisfied and you move on.
But what have you done to fix the problem moving forward? This is the missing piece in many small businesses. After you employ a temporary solution, you should evaluate the source of the problem in a more in-depth manner – to create the best solution for the future.
In the above example, it’s easy to assume the employee did a poor job or needed more training. In this case, the office staff scheduled two additional service calls and he was running behind. Concerned about being late to his remaining customers, he took shortcuts to make up the time. So is it a people issue or a system issue – or maybe a combination of both?
Fix Then Solve
This principle applies to all areas of your business. While customers may create obvious fire drills, here’s a few others to consider:
- Key employee resigns unexpectedly – and you have no one cross-trained.
- Primary supplier goes out of business or increases prices dramatically and you have all your eggs in one basket!
- Your biggest (or best) customer merged with another company and they have their own preferred vendor (and it’s not you).
- Sales plunge and you have no ongoing, consistent method to generate more sales from new leads or existing customers – cash flow is getting tight.
All of these issues require immediate action, so go for the quick fix. But afterward, work on the best solution for the future. From the above examples, that may include documenting or improving procedures, cross training employees, creating multiple supplier arrangements, expanding or diversifying customer base, and ongoing marketing and sales efforts.
While the best solution will take more time, it is often worth it in the long-run. Think about the impact these problems have on costs, profit, customer satisfaction, team satisfaction – and you personally. Do you really want to spend your days putting out fires?
Determine The Source of Problems
How do you determine the source of problems? Ask more questions. How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again? How can we do this better in the future? Think systems and people!
- What systems and procedures do you need to run all areas of your business? Are they documented so others can use them consistently? Are they effective – work the way they should?
- What people (employees, vendors, contractors, power partners) do you need to run your systems? Are they trained properly? Are the expectations clear?
Get others involved and encourage people to speak up without fear. It’s difficult to get to the root cause and solve problems without honest communication from everyone. Make the commitment to really improve your business. Get rid of the band-aids and fix the problems for the long-term.
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