Before you start thinking of a solution, you need to identify what the problem is.
Many business owners get caught up with the idea of implementing a miracle solution before truly understanding the issues currently being faced by their business.
Others tend to operate in a state of ignorance - hoping that things will improve without making the effort to take an introspective look at the current state of affairs and determine what is and isn’t working.
If you fall into either of these categories, don’t fret - there is a way out.
Not sure what is wrong with the business?
Being unsure of where problems lie can be a very scary place to be. Without knowing what is wrong, how can you fix it?
There are many issues that are commonly faced by businesses around the world. Some of these include:
- Poor communication between staff.
- Inefficient processes resulting in wasted time and money.
- Lack of documented processes resulting in staff flying by the seat of their pants.
- Lack of situational awareness resulting in a poor understanding of the ‘bigger picture.’
- Not being objective when making decisions.
- Using incorrect or outdated information to inform key business decisions.
- Inadequate staff training or up-skilling.
- Not keeping an eye on your competition.
- Not engaging with and getting feedback from existing customers.
So how do you go about identifying the issues being faced by your business?
Identifying Current Issues
Identifying current issues being faced by your business can be a challenging process.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Talk to your staff.
Interviewing staff members and asking them what they are struggling with day to day can prove to be quite illuminating.
You need to make sure you ask the right kinds of questions, e.g.
- What tasks are you spending most of your time?
- Are you regularly performing repetitive manual tasks?
- What do you do when you’re unsure of how to handle something?
- Do you understand the bigger implications of what you are working on?
- During your daily workflow are there any ‘process blockers’ that you regularly encounter?
These questions will give you an insight into how your employees think and what issues they are encountering on a day to day basis.
2. Revisit existing processes
Taking a deeper look at current processes can quickly reveal flaws.
Often, businesses will have implemented processes and procedures without due consideration given to why something should work the way it does. In some cases a process was never really discussed or formalised - it just so happened that someone senior decided to do something a particular way and that was passed down to junior staff and so on.
Bad processes can create a dangerous cycle that needs to be broken quickly.
Ask your staff:
- Why is this task being done in this particular way?
- What is the expected outcome?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- Are there any common blockers to completing this task quickly and efficiently?
- Can anything be removed from this process to achieve the same result?
Based on the answers you receive, you will have a much clearer understanding on how to alleviate any problems that are identified.
3. Talk to your customers
Taking some time to talk to your customers can do wonders for your business.
Many businesses overlook meaningful customer feedback - this feedback could relate to the sales/on-boarding process, ongoing support or general service delivery.
Getting a better understanding of how your customers are feeling in regards to the areas mentioned above can let you know whether there is a serious issue that has been overlooked.
While it can be tempting to quickly create a simple survey and send it out to all your clients, it’s only a good starting point. Getting your customers on the phone to discuss feedback in greater detail will often result in more meaningful learning and data being collected. Or better yet, go and meet them in person!
4. Look to the competition
Many businesses get so caught up with what they are doing that they often forget to look to one of the best learning resources available - their competitors.
The closest competitors in your space will often provide deep and profound insights on the marketplace. It’s very important to keep an eye on what your competition is doing. This includes things like:
- Product Line
- Customer Service and Post Sales Support
- Website and Marketing
- Social Media
By observing the key players in your market using the metrics above, you can learn a wealth of knowledge about their approach use it to innovate and improve your own strategy and processes.
Once you have a better idea of what might be going wrong with your business, you’ll be in a much better position to start looking for solutions.
A solution may come in the form of a small change to an existing process, using software to automate manual tasks that are wasting valuable employee time or taking on board customer feedback to change a key aspect of your service delivery.
Whatever the solution may be, it’s important to remember that you can’t fix something unless you know what is broken.
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