Over the last few weeks we’ve been addressing your goals. I started by telling you that yearly goals are terrible and that you need to stop doing them. Then we talked about the alternative that I use, setting goals in quarter increments and measuring progress. But before you do any goal setting, you need to make sure that you’re going to end up in the right spot. Today we’re going to go one step further in making sure that we are heading in the right direction as we ask ourselves a key question.

Am I even sure what the real problems are in my business?

You probably already have a short list of problems, but most lists I see are symptoms. Low sales is not the problem, it’s a symptom of something else. Maybe the problem is that your products suck and they’re not what the industry wants.

Until you’ve sat down and put the work into figuring out what your challenges are, you aren’t ready to pick your most important projects for a quarterly cycle.

What Challenges Do You Have?

The first step in figuring out the challenges that your business is dealing with is developing a single statement to represent your biggest challenge. You need to take a few minutes and try to make sure that you’re dealing with a present challenge, not one that is a challenge you may suffer from at some point in the future.

If you find yourself using the word “problem” don’t. A challenge can be an opportunity or a problem. Get agnostic by using the word challenge.

Take a few minutes now to write down what your biggest challenge is. If you have two or three to start, that’s fine. Go with a few and then look at each challenge and ask yourself: “If I could solve only this challenge, would it make the rest of my business easier or irrelevant?”.

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If you look at one challenge and with some thought realize that by solving it you will eliminate needing to even bother with other items on your list, you’ve found one of your biggest challenges.

Next, we need to scrub through that challenge to ensure that it is in fact a challenge and not a symptom in disguise.

Is this only one challenge?

You can’t fix two challenges at once. Does your single statement focus only on one thing? Can you find one solution and put that challenge to bed? A great key to seeing this is if you’ve used the word “and” in your challenge statement. Almost every time, when you include “and” you’re talking about a second problem.

Is it a problem now?

You can’t fix something you did yesterday. You can only change your behaviour right now. Is your challenge statement something you can change now?

Is it a solution?

Your challenge statement should not be a solution. The first time I started walking through this my statement was “Not enough people know who I am.” My thinking was that I needed more sales and if more people know who I am, I can make more sales.

This is true, but getting more people to know me is the solution to the problem of needing more sales in the business. This is where I caught it and changed my challenge statement to “I need more sales in the business.”

We’ll see the three solutions that I started to implement to change that in a bit.

Are the assumptions valid?

Looking at this section, you need to ask yourself if you’re on the right track. If you want to loose weight and say that the challenge is eating too much fast food, you’re on the right track but missing something.

Yes, junk food has lots of bad stuff in it, but is it the junk food or that you don’t have any healthy options? Is your kitchen 99% unhealthy options, or empty? If so, then your assumption that it’s just fast food is faulty.

Maybe you have a grumpy support staff person and that’s your challenge. But take a second to think about the systems they use. Are they always backlogged and digging through an obtuse support system?

Before you even start to address their attitude, make sure you’re putting the tools in front of them so they have a chance of succeeding in their job.

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Blaming Your Competition for Challenges Means You Loose

The final thing you need to watch out for is blame. Your challenge statement can’t be blaming someone or something else for the state of affairs you have. If you’re making the challenge the fault of someone else, you’re wasting your time.

Yes, competitors come out with services that are awesome and overcoming those sales challenges are real. Blaming them helps no one though. Your challenge should focus on what actions you can take to also release and market compelling products that blow your competition out of the water.

The Challenge Statement for My Business

I already mentioned, that when I started working through this the first time in it’s basic form I had a challenge statement of: “Not enough people know me.”

I needed more sales in my business and if more people knew me then I would make more sales.

Digging through these filters though I realized that my real challenge was “Not enough sales”. That has three possible problems that need to be checked out.

  1. Not enough people know me
  2. My products don’t fit the market
  3. My product marketing is bad

With that information in hand I put together some surveys for my readers to find out what content they want to read most is. I asked them what their biggest problems are and what they wanted to hear from me on.

Out of that I found that my products are in the right spots, which left me with marketing. Now I can dig into my landing pages and my checkout process to see how they measure up. Once I get them to a decent level I can really start hammering on the first issue, getting more people to know me.

I don’t have to wait for the on site marketing though, I can start working on getting more people to know who I am right away. I can give it more focus when I have refined my on page marketing to be the best I can make it.

Block out an hour this week to look at the challenges you have in your business. Use the free workbook I provided to help you figure out your challenges in one spot. If you can do the work, you’ll come out the other side in a position to start moving your business forward.

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Photo by: bobsfever