5 Ways to Avoid the Trap of Chasing “Silver Bullet” Solutions to Your Small Business Challenges.
The term “silver bullet” has been around for literally hundreds of years, where tradition has it, a bullet made of silver was supposedly the magical method to kill werewolves. We’ve come a long way since the werewolves, but we’re still looking for the simple, magical solution to complicated problems.
We have become a society of “instant gratification,” with 140-character reactions and solutions, even to world events. And that has spilled over into all aspects of life, including small business, where, most often, the objective is the quick and the simple, regardless of how complicated the problem or the issue. Fail early/fail often for startups or “pivot,” for later stage businesses, while both sound principles, often, become a way to look for one “silver bullet” solution after another.
until you know why it exists
You can’t begin to solve the problem
until you know why it exists
Unfortunately, especially for entrepreneurs, there aren’t very many straightforward and quick solutions to the complicated, sometimes messy problems you face as you grow your business. And often the “silver bullet” solutions are illusory, at best. But the allure to do so can be difficult to overcome.
Let me give you five simple ways to solve a problem or meet a challenge in your business that will not only create the basis for long-term solution but help you avoid falling into the “silver bullet” trap:
Determine why the problem/challenge exists.Having been through some gruesome situations in my turnaround experience, I’ve learned that before you can solve a problem, you need to know why it exists; what its cause is. And to do that you need to ask tough questions.
For example, if sales have suddenly gone south, is that product-related, sales force-related, market-related or support related? Or some combination?
You can’t begin to solve the problem until you have your answers. And here, is very first place you have to avoid trying to come up with a solution (your “silver bullet”) before you understand the problem. And this step could take more time and energy than the overall solution…but it’s worth it.
Be ready and committed to “do the work.”Once you understand why the problem exists, then you have to set out to solve it, so that it doesn’t become a problem again. Outline the solution in as much detail as possible, including ways you can monitor critical symptoms of the problem. No shortcuts, no “quick fixes,” but a firm commitment to see it through to completion.
Look for guidance. Look for help.If you don’t have any advisors, now is as good a time as any to get one (or more). Maybe, ask some folks you respect if they can recommend somebody. Regardless, you need a sounding board; you need someone who will give an unvarnished opinion. This can, invariably, keep you out of trouble. But for this situation, it’s one more step away from “silver bullet” thinking, one more step toward longer-term solutions. (Read my article on how to select a good advisor for you)
Develop realistic/time-based objectives and a step-by-step plan to reach them.The problem probably didn’t emerge overnight (there may have been signs, but you missed them) and it surely won’t be resolved overnight. Based on your comprehensive solution, establish realistic objectives that get you back to where you need to be over a reasonable period.
Based on the extent of the problem and the resources that are available to solve it, put a step-by-step task list together, with assigned roles and responsibilities that will help you achieve the objectives you’ve set.
Develop a scoreboard to manage the solution, both short-and long-term.Invariably, you got into trouble by not having some scoreboard to track relative success. Now, you have your arms around the problem; you don’t want it re-live it. Have a way that everybody can monitor, to not only keep track of results vs. objectives but of the various underlying task completion from your plan. Continue to manage and post results even beyond problem solution. It shows the company how you fixed a problem…the right way!
Unfortunately, there are no “silver bullets” when it comes to solving small business problems and challenges. The take thought, planning and lots of hard work. But in the end, the business grows in immeasurable ways.
"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!
Have you been guilty of chasing “silver bullet” solutions? Please share your thoughts in your comments. It can help another entrepreneur or small business owner.
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Photo from from GQ.com.