The challenge of how to solve business problems has been around for centuries. What follows next is a short parable that’s even older. The parable puts the question into perspective and serves to open up some powerful solutions that you probably haven’t considered before. The 2 or 3 minutes it takes to read it is time well spent. The commentary at the end delivers some very practical insights that help entrepreneurs solve business problems more easily.
A few thousand years ago, back in India, a farmer had three unsuccessful years in a row and he was desperate for help. One day he hears about a guru living far up in the mountains who has a reputation for solving problems. The farmer packs up some food and clothes and sets off to see the guru.
For eight days and eight nights, the farmer travels through the countryside. As he reaches the base of the mountain, he gets robbed by some highwaymen. It doesn’t matter; all he had on him to steal was some food and one extra cloak. The farmer climbs the mountain, finds the guru’s cave, and discovers a long lineup of people waiting for help. Some of them shared their extra food with him and another gave him a spare blanket. The lineup gave the farmer two days to list all of the problems he was going to ask the guru to solve.
He waited and waited until finally his turn arrived. Then he walked into the guru’s cave and sat down. The guru had a long white beard and was dressed in a simple robe. He was seated cross-legged on the hard floor of the cave.
“How may I help you?” the guru asks him.
“Well, I’ve had a long time to think about this,” the farmer replied pointing back towards the long lineup behind him, “and I have a list of 82 problems.”
“The farmer isn’t kidding. He lists out exactly 82 problems: the soil in his field is not as good as his brother’s, his wife’s a nag, his sons all want to leave the farm and move away, his goats don’t give enough milk, the stream dries up too early every year, foxes keeps killing his chickens, he’s broke, and on and on. After an hour of talking the farmer finally finishes and asks, “Now, how can you help me with these 82 problems?’”
“Sorry, I can’t solve your 82 problems,” the guru says calmly.
The farmer was shocked. “What?” he said. “It took me eight days just to get here and two more waiting in line. I haven’t had a full meal in days and now you tell me you can’t help with my problems. I don’t believe this. What kind of phony guru are you?”
“I can’t solve your 82 problems,” the guru replied, “but maybe I can help you with your 83rd problem.”
“Hey wait a minute,” the farmer exclaimed. “I thought long and hard to come up with a list of all of all my problems and I only came up with 82. I don’t think that I have an 83rd problem!”
“Yes you do,” the guru calmly said to him.
Frustrated, the farmer sarcastically asks, “Okay I’ll bite. What, EXACTLY, is my 83rd problem?”
“Your 83rd problem is that you don’t want any problems. I can help you with that.”
The fastest way to build a strong company is to learn how to solve business problems. There are two sides to that statement. If your clients don’t have any problems, there’s no need for you to build a company to solve them. A surprising amount of companies exist primarily to solve problems for others. It’s a good idea to get clear about the problems your company solves and market that consistently. On the other side of the coin: if building a company was problem-free then the market would be cluttered with competitors and it would be difficult for you to make a decent profit. In business you have to expect problems and deal with them effectively. It’s just part of the package when you own a company.
A common problem that most company owners have is that they think symptoms are problems. There is no question that symptoms are frustrating, but there’s a big difference: problems cause symptoms. It’s a cause and effect relationship. The first clue that you’re dealing with symptoms is they keep happening over and over again. For example, production is always behind schedule, low sales last month, the month before that and the month before that.
The real challenge is to identify the core problems and then get to work on them. You need to focus your energy and solve business problems that are worth solving. It's a difference that will deliver significant results for your company. The shift from struggling with symptoms to tackling the right problems is a mindset and it's in your hands. Sometimes the hardest part is the first step. If that's your situation then call a friend who can help you think your problems through and arrive at a more powerful perspective or contact Rock Solid
You might be thinking that those are difficult problems to solve. There’s no doubt about it, they can be, but the rewards for solving them are phenomenal. When you solve these five business problems you will have built a strong company and your life will change dramatically for the better. Like all worthwhile things, it will take some work, but it’s a lot easier when you focus on solving the genuine business problems instead of chasing symptoms.