A failure to change can mean failure for your business, but placing too much emphasis on decisions is just as harmful.
As a business owner, each choice seems monumental because you feel like success rides on your every decision. Do you adopt the cloud? Do you hire more people? Do you switch suppliers? Can you outsource non-core activities? The list goes on.
To stay agile as a small business, you must find the solution that makes the most sense for your business, regardless of where it comes from.
Problem solving for the small business
Businesses encounter obstacles every day. Having problems is not a problem. However, it is a problem if your company refuses to adopt viable solutions just because they're not new.
When companies try to reinvent the wheel, it can cause delusions of moving forward when in reality no progress has been made. Not every issue requires a new system, product launch, a consultant or a restructure.
But time and time again, business owners are convinced that they can think of a new and genius solution that no one has thought of before. When confronted with a problem or decision, keep your team away from these common traps.
1. In the name of disruption
Many startups feel the pressure to be disruptive because that’s what the companies who get press coverage do and it's the biggest trend coming out of Silicon Valley. But disruption is just a buzzword and shouldn’t be the only term associated with success.
If you aim for disruption, you risk ending up with an answer that doesn’t fit into the market or your operations. Instead, focus on improving how something is done or simply solving a problem. You don’t have to disrupt. You only need the simplest answer to a real problem.
2. Analysis paralysis
Many business owners are convinced that a good plan will solve any problem. But the longer you think about the possibilities, the more complex your solution can become.
Business is constant decisions. And almost every decision is changeable. It may cost money or time to change it, but to be successful, you have to understand when to analyse and when to act.
3. Feature fascination
If a product isn’t selling, some companies will try to reinvent it by adding features rather than addressing the core issue. But the time spent trying to reinvent should be spent correcting.
Consider the homepage of Google compared to Bing or Yahoo. Google is by far the simplest yet the infrastructure that lets Google produce results that make it the number one search engine is complex.
Features are hype and distraction. Customers prefer a product that works effortlessly and simple solutions are the most sought after.
4. ‘Not Invented Here’ syndrome
Some companies fall into the trap of thinking every solution needs to come out of their own offices and from their own people in an effort to be entirely unique.
But think of a musician. All musicians work with the same framework and ‘build excellence upon it.’ For example, you don’t need to build your software from scratch when cloud applications are plentiful for every business operation.
Adopting an existing solution is an opportunity for your team to spend time on the things that will set your business apart, like customer service or your core product.
5. Professional bias
On the other hand, don’t let professional baggage get in the way of a suitable solution. Just because you don’t like another company whether from personal experience or from what you’ve heard, don’t let this keep you from adopting best practices that have proven successful.
Adoption or innovation
To run you own business you need an awareness of what you can learn from the successes and failures of other entrepreneurs, and you have to emphasise action over analysis.
It’s completely acceptable to adopt and adapt another's practice to your business model. Realise that:
- You don’t have to disrupt to be successful.
- The simple solution is probably the right one.
- Features and new products don’t fix problems.
- Other businesses may have solved your problem already.
- A willingness to adopt solutions leaves more time for innovation.
It’s this realisation that will define you as a business owner and determine the success of your business.
(Updated December 14th 2018 by Callum Sharp.)