One thing that all entrepreneurs can attest to, is that business is never linear. While there are always wins, there are also challenges to solve. But when things go wrong and we don’t get the results that we want, it can really shake us.
When faced with a business challenge, one of the easiest reactions is to just freak out. For some people, that might mean launching into intense activity and trying to solve it 10,000 different ways. For others, it means completely shutting down and pulling the blanket over your head until you find the courage to deal with it–neither of which are *ideal* solutions…
So today, we’re going to dig into the six practical steps that will guide you through any business challenge, no matter how big or small. With this concrete system to follow, not only will your problems feel much less weighty, but you can even start to have fun solving them!
Step #1: Recognize the Emotions
As we’re building a business, it can be incredibly difficult to try to stay objective, as much as we might try to–our businesses just matter too much to us.
When negative things happen in business, most business owners will experience some kind of emotional reaction, which is completely normal (we are still human beings, after all).
The first step in the process of dealing with a challenge is to recognize that you’re feeling a certain emotion. Are you feeling scared, anxious, disappointed, or panicked?
Even if you’re someone who isn’t as in touch with your emotions, see if you can notice some physical symptoms such as tension, an elevated heart rate, or having trouble sleeping.
It’s important to start to learn how this manifests for you, so that you can begin to work through the rest of the steps in this process and push through the resistance.
Step #2: List the Objective Facts
Once you’ve identified the emotions that you’re experiencing, take time to view the problem as objectively as possible. Because as we know, our feelings and emotions around it aren’t very objective.
To help you take a step back and view it objectively, ask yourself what you know for sure about this situation and what the actual facts are. While we can’t change how we react and feel about something, we do have control over how we are viewing the facts.
We tell ourselves one story with our feelings and emotions, but the real story is not necessarily the same. For example, if you’re saying ‘nobody bought my offer’, that’s very emotionally charged. Even if just one person bought it, write down the conversion rate, what you did to promote the offer, when you did it, and come up with a clear story around what happened–and most importantly, do not attach any emotions to those facts!
If you’re having trouble getting to the facts, start by writing down the thoughts you’re having and then evaluate those thoughts. Is it an objective fact (something you know for certain) or is it just your opinion? Usually, the facts are very simple and super boring because they have no emotion involved.
Step #3: Identify What to Solve
Once you have your list of objective facts, ask yourself, ‘What did not happen the way that I wanted it to happen? What am I looking to solve as I look at this problem?’
For example, you might have only made one sale last month and worked every evening, but want to be making 15 sales and find a more healthy work schedule with fewer hours.
In this situation, there are layered problems and so the solutions for both of these things could overlap. You could find a solution that meets both of these needs, reducing your hours and helping you hit your sales goal. But it could also be that they need two separate solutions that work together.
Step #4: (Objectively) Pinpoint the Inputs that Got You This Output
At this point in the process, people often start to become a little reactionary and start trying to dive into the solutions, which is usually a mistake. There is actually a step before you start solving it, where you want to figure out what got you into this position and what got you this result.
What are the symptoms of this problem? This is another place where it’s crucial to be objective, rather than saying things like ‘well, my spouse didn’t support me, so I ended up having to work all these extra hours’. While that certainly may be a factor, it’s still highly emotional.
We’re looking for the exact, provable facts that got you into this. So give yourself some time to list all of the ingredients that went into this result, like looking back at your schedule, or how you created your messaging, or who you sent your offer to.
Until you go all the way through your list, you may not notice that one of the biggest problems is something you hadn’t even thought about. It may even be a combination of a couple of different things, but you can’t know that until you’ve gone through and objectively listed out all of the elements.
And remember: if this is a problem that is enough to make you upset, then this is a problem that is worthy of you taking some time to really think about and list out all of the different inputs that got you this result.
Step #5: Brainstorm Hypotheses
Once you have the full list of inputs, the next stage is to come up with your hypotheses about why you think this happened and what could fix it.
For example, if you’re not hitting your sales goals and you’re looking at all of the factors that go into that, maybe you hypothesize that you’re not charging enough for your offer and you need to raise the price of it. Or maybe you didn’t factor in how high ad costs would be. You want to explore having multiple hypotheses, even if you’re determined that the first thing you thought of is the solution.
By not exploring all the possibilities, you’re limiting yourself straight off the bat and potentially preventing yourself from getting to the real crux of the matter.
The great part about this process is that if one thing doesn’t work, you can simply go back to your list of hypotheses with this process. This also helps to take some of the emotion out of it as you’re not hanging all of your hopes on just one solution.
Step #6: Test Each Hypothesis (One at a Time!)
Instead of just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks, testing each hypothesis one by one will allow you to figure out exactly what it was that helped you get out of this mess.
Having that information is so much more helpful than guessing and then not knowing what to do if something like this happens again.
It’s just like testing your sales page and changing one element at a time, like the headline, then the body copy, then the images, and seeing which one of those elements made the difference.
Then moving forward, you know how to further optimize it for the best results.
Yes, it takes a bit more of a concentrated effort to test one thing at a time, but having an order of operations makes the process more controlled and more focused. Never underestimate the value of testing and analyzing key metrics to inform important business decisions.
This is also one of the pitfalls of live launching twice a year or once a quarter, as it makes it much more difficult to get the information that you need to improve things in your business. Being able to test on an ongoing basis gives you a lot more information and feedback that you can act on quickly versus having dead time between launches.
There’s no getting away from the fact that nerves, and anxiety are all part of being in business. And it is absolutely okay to feel a little knocked off your game sometimes. But if you do not want yourself, your business and–if applicable–your employees to be at the mercy of your emotions, this process will help you move past the fear and allow you to keep taking effective action.
In this Energize Your Online Business podcast episode, Nicki and Kate are revealing the very practical steps you can take when you faced with entrepreneurial challenges, no matter how big or small. Listen in to find out why thinking objectively can make problem-solving a more effective (and even enjoyable!) process.
Are you currently facing any challenges in your business? Let us know in the comments how this process will help!