Solve the underlying problem
Hey, I’m Michael Eckstein 👋, and this is ‘Ordinary & Necessary’, a weekly newsletter about the boring business topics that don’t get enough traction on the web, but will help you manage and grow your business. You signed up on my website. If you’d like to unsubscribe, just click here. No harm, no foul, I’d love to have you back sometime.
I live in Huntington, NY. (If you’re unfamiliar with Long Island, I’m about an hour east of New York City.) It’s a great place to live. There’s a small downtown area with lots of restaurants, we have quick access to NYC, and we’re close to the water. But, there’s room for improvement. For instance, we have a parking problem (there isn’t enough of it on a Friday or Saturday night), there’s a trash collection problem (collection creates a lot of traffic), and there’s a really, really sketchy alleyway (it’s dangerous at night). The alley is unpaved and uneven, rainwater never drains, and there are lots of hidden alcoves that are scary at night. If you ask the locals, no one likes or feels safe in the alleyway after dark.
A few months ago, I listened to a presentation about painting murals in the alleyway. The presenters outlined a plan to beautify the alley including a special-use corporation, a social media blitz, nationally-renowned graffiti artists, and major sponsorships from Fortune 500 companies. They just needed $10,000 from our non-profit to get the ball rolling. (🙄)
It was an interesting presentation, but it missed its mark because no one was complaining that the alleyway wasn’t pretty. The chief complaint was that the alleyway is dangerous and unsafe. Painting murals wouldn’t solve the underlying problem. They just wanted to dress it up.
Every small business has issues that the owner is trying to fix. When fixing these issues, you need to look for the underlying problem that’s causing them. If you don’t find the underlying problem, you’ll just wind up frustrated that you wasted your time and money on a solution that didn’t work.
For example, if your clients are slow to pay your invoices, you have a problem somewhere in your Accounts Receiveable process (aka sending invoices and getting paid). There are a myriad of potential problems in any given A/R process. Your problem could be the timeliness of your invoices, how you’re sending invoices, a miscommunication of payment terms, failure to follow-up, etc etc. You need to figure out where exactly the problem is before you can fix it. Because, if the true underlying problem was the timeliness of your invoices, you wouldn’t see any improvements by buying a new high-end invoicing software. You’d just be dressing up the problem.
THIS WEEK’S ACTION ITEM: Find your underlying problem. There’s a problem in your business that you’ve been trying to fix. Keep asking questions until you get to your bottleneck.
Have a good weekend and stay safe!
P.S. Next month, I’ll be trying something a little different with the newsletter. Instead of one-off topics each week, next month will have an overall theme and each week’s email will relate back to the theme.