August 12, 2011

Managing Your Business Pain

Cause: Unknown

Doctors are trained to do their best to cure what ails you. They spend years in school and in practice to hone their skills to help their patients. If you have pain, they try and manage it. If your bone is broken, they mend it. If you have something more serious, they work with specialists and experts to find solutions to get you better.

In business, we spend our waking hours trying to improve our services or products, increase profits, develop skills and create collaborative work environments. The days are filled with strategy meetings and workflow, email and client deliverables. Despite our avoidance, there is pain that we try and ignore.

Symptoms: Minimal

The pain in your business may not be something bombastic or even all that obvious. It could be something minor, manageable and barely detectable. If a customer experiences bad service, they often don't tell you, they simply stop buying from you. So any pain may not be outlined. Profits may begin to slip and you may think the remedy is pushing your stakeholders harder or doing more sales calls. The core of the problem might be product development or competitive interference. But your focus is elsewhere.

Every company experiences pain. Growing pains, revenue pains, biz dev pains, financial pains and none avoid it. In fact, most live with it daily despite the energy spent to ignore it. In life, pain can debilitate you. In business, it can motivate you. But the real trick is to identify the source of the pain. If you tell your doctor you are getting bad headaches, she doesn’t fix your knee. But in business, if revenue is soft we think that means we should be doing more sales calls.

Top Priority: Revenue

I’m often faced with that moment in a discovery meeting with a prospective client when I ask about pain. The answers are varied and often unspecific. “We need to make more money” is frequently the response which may be true but the doctor doesn’t guess at how you can have more mobility in your ankle, he has a strategy specific to the issue. In business, revenue generation can often be as much internal as external.

The chasm between product or service and your customer can be monumental. There are a lot of intricate moving parts – like the human body – and any one can mess up the process. If you’ve ever tried to quit coffee or go long stretches without food, you know your mind begins to wander and your concentration levels diminish. Your creative and cognitive skills are compromised. And your output suffers.

Solution: Band-Aid

Now visualize that across the enterprise. Imagine you’re the doctor and you have 300 people in your waiting room with mysterious ailments. And instead of trying to diagnose each person’s issue because you don’t have time to babysit, you simply put out a blanket remedy and hope that cures the pain. You tell your sales people to make more calls and your marketing team to get more exposure.

Some may think that the clear way to realizing higher profit margins is obviously pushing people to simply work harder. After all, it couldn't be your product or service. The customer experience you provide can't be the problem. And it certainly couldn't be anything you're doing wrong, right?

How do you cure your company's pain?

Kneale Mann

image credit: falaksher
© Kneale Mann people + priority = profit
leadership development business culture talent development human capital