Got a Thorny Business Problem?

Posted on May 16, 2015 By

Thorny Problem

Every business encounters insurmountable problems.  Revenue drops off a cliff, raw materials double in price, entire container shipments disappear.  It’s a bit of a cliche to say, it isn’t the bad things that happen to you; it’s how you react is important.  But there is a kernel of truth to it.  How do you react to dramatic takedowns of your business?

First, if you are going to be emotional about it.  Get that out of the way.  Go have some ice cream, beer or scream at the greek gods about the unfairness of it all.  Are you back now?  Good.

Second, define the problem.  Raw materials doubling in price?  Your competitors will also be facing that same issue.  Revenue drops?  Have to checked the sales reports lately?  Is one of your employees stealing cash?  Economic downturn?  It’s important to know why this bad thing has happened, not just that it has.

Third, Brainstorm for immediate solutions.  Do you need a cash infusion?  Do you need to reduce staff?  Plug the immediate problem as best as you can.

Fourth, Back to problem solving.  Outline the problem/solutions and future problems that might happen.  For each step; write down something that would alleviate that risk.  Containers have gone missing?  Did you have shipping insurance to cover that risk?  Consider talking to your mentors about the issue.  Google the individual problem.  You will be surprised to learn how many people have already have solved your problem.  Give it a try.

Fifth, Do you have some long term solutions yet?  Break down the solution into steps.  The tangled path out the quagmire should be more clear now.

Sixth, Acceptance.  It’s true that sometimes there is no immediate solution.  Say, your retail store burning down with all your inventory before the holidays.  In that case, you need to build a business plan to figure out what it would take to restore your business.  You might discover that the business insurance was insufficient, the local zoning might have changed, or the business climate is inadequate.  Consider if you are planning on making the problem worse, or solving it.  Nothing lasts forever and some never are reborn in a new format.

A great example is Woolworths.  If you don’t remember Woolworths, it was one of the original dime stores.  I loved going to their lunch counter, browsing their store, and just finding weird stuff that had been there for years.  Now, that format is still around, Walmart, Kmart, and Target are the same updated store type; but Woolworths has died.  Or has it?  The corporate structure has changed, the store fronts have changed, but Foot Lockers and other mall stores are the same company.  They successfully transitioned to a new version of themselves.  If a nickle and dime store chain can do that, you can too!


Laura Dodson
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Laura Dodson

Laura Dodson, CPA is a Seattle Financial Planning & Analysis consultant.She has attended Western Washington University, Pierce College and Bates Technical College. She has written four accounting instructional books. She has worked for small family businesses, mid-sized businesses and a Fortune 500 company.She founded and operated Blue Stone Accounting LLC for five years.She currently runs Paper Butterfly Forge LLC.
Laura Dodson
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