What You May Not Know About Problem Solving in Business

When it comes to running a business, interior designers have a critical asset that many managers lack—a problem-solving mindset. Doing design is all about solving problems, large and small. So, too, is managing a business. However, some of the types of problems that arise in operating a business are different from those that designers encounter in their practice. They require an additional set of problem-solving skills.

If you’ve had a design business for a while, you’re probably already a master at dealing with purchasing and delivery problems, schedule delays, contractor disputes, and disgruntled clients. But how adept are you at resolving personnel issues, cash flow interruptions, increased competition, sudden downturns in demand or revenues, rising costs, and any number of other problems that can throw you off your stride and interfere with achieving your business goals?

Communicate clearly and often

As “the boss,” your team looks to you to solve problems. Yet, resolving these kinds of problems requires more than staying calm and making a quick decision. Everyone on your team needs to be part of the solution. For that to happen, you need to be able to communicate the problem clearly to the whole team, solicit their input, explain what options are being explored to address it, and keep them updated on any progress.

Examine the big picture

Keep a broad perspective. Analyze the problem within the larger context, whether that’s team dynamics or the current business environment. What are the underlying causes that are contributing to the problem? Don’t focus on the problem per se but rather on the impact it is having, or may have, on the firm as a whole. This will provide you with a wider range of possible solutions to consider as well as garner support from the entire team. Don’t treat the symptoms, instead treat the root of the issue.

Focus on opportunities, not problems

Approach the issue as an opportunity rather than as a problem. Negativity and close-mindedness are the enemies of constructive and creative problem-solving. If what was working for you before is not getting the same results, be willing to try new ways of doing things. What might you have overlooked before because things seemed to be going well? Don’t let past success blind you to tomorrow’s opportunities.

Make everyone part of the solution

Once you’ve weighed your options and decided on a strategy, develop a plan and share it with the whole team. Explain what role each team member has in carrying out the plan and the results you are looking for. You want to convey confidence but also a willingness to modify the plan as needed to get the desired outcomes. Establish a method for measuring results and provide regular progress updates.

You already have the skills to handle the kinds of minor glitches that are part of the daily operations of any business. More complex operational problems, however, call for a different approach, one that is more about decision leadership than decision making. To succeed, everyone on the team needs to be invested in owning the problem, wanting to solve the problem, and fulfilling their part in executing the plan. You don’t always have to be the one that arrives at the best solution, but you are responsible for seeing that it is properly carried out.

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