What are You Looking At?: Learning to Address our Problems Head on

What are You Looking At?: Learning to Address our Problems Head on

Remember when you were a kid (or maybe more recently for some of us) and you happened to be looking at someone and they asked in a rather hostile tone, “What are you looking at?”  The standard response, at least for me, was, “Nothing much.”  This, of course, is to imply that you’re not impressed with the questioner and how they are trying to be tough by asking the question.  The response to this minor insult usually ranged from a sneer to an invitation to meet the adversary in the alley after school.  This juvenile response to a simple question can teach us something about success in life and in business.

As a business owner (and even as an employee) you are going to suffer setbacks in pursuit of your goals for your business.  As a new business owner, I quickly discovered that setbacks come in many shapes and sizes.  Within a few days of taking over the business, the billing/payroll/scheduling person who was supposed to stay on-board and train me on how to run the back office quit with no notice.  She decided that she no longer wanted to work with us and felt no obligation whatsoever to help us out in the transition.  To amplify the problem, the former owner from whom we bought the business had no idea how to do any of the back-office tasks.  Although the former owner had a contractual obligation to stick around and train us for six weeks, she was no help.

About a month after taking ownership of the business, I received a call that I will never forget.  It was a cold and very rainy Friday evening, about 6 p.m. and I was just leaving the office.  We had taken a new home care client who was discharged from the local hospital’s psychiatric unit.  His wife wanted to bring him home, but needed some assistance with him as, according to his wife, he could be “difficult” sometimes.  When I picked up the phone, on the other end was a somewhat hysterical caregiver who breathlessly said that the client had attacked her and she had just managed to get away from him.  I jumped in my car and sped over to the house.  When I arrived, the situation had calmed down, but the caregiver was visibly shaken and had red marks on her neck.  She told me that the wife had left to go to the pharmacy and as soon as the wife drove out of the driveway, the client flew into a rage and started choking the caregiver.  Fortunately, the caregiver was able to separate herself from the client and get to the phone.  In the end the police and paramedics took the client back to the hospital.

These were two traumatic and serious issues that arose during my first month as a home care business owners.  These were not the only issues that arose, just two of the most memorable.  As any small business owner can tell you, new issues are going to come up every day. It is how you handle them that sets you apart.  If you want success in any business, when those problems or situations arise, it is like that bully in elementary school saying, “What are you looking at?”  You have to look the problem right in the eye and say, “Nothing much!”  I’m not suggesting that you not take the problem or issue seriously, just that you have to let the problem know that you’re not impressed or scared and you can handle it.

Successful small business owners look their problems in the eye and deal with them directly.  When you have a fairly new business, it is not likely that you will have a staff member that can handle the problems that arise for you.  You, out of necessity, will have to handle the problems yourself.  Even as your business begins to grow and you take on staff members, it is still essential to be directly involved in addressing problems or issues that arise.  Great leaders lead from the front, not from the rear.  As a home care owner, I was always involved in dealing with problems, many times dealing with and resolving them myself.  This showed my staff that I cared and that I was working as hard as they were.  

As Napoleon Hill observed in his book Think and Grow Rich, “One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat.”  The problems or issues that come up so frequently in business, and life, are usually only temporary defeats.  Sometime the problems that arise feel like more than a temporary defeat, they feel like monumental defeats.  When our back-office person quit without notice and left us holding the bag, it sure seemed like a massive defeat at the time.  But, we used it as an opportunity to train ourselves and develop a system that worked well for us.  When our caregiver was assaulted by the client, that seemed like a giant defeat and made me wonder for an instant what I had gotten myself into.  However, we used it as an opportunity and a learning experience and it helped us upgrade our training program and how we screened potential clients.  

Business owners that succeed view problems that arise as only temporary defeats and opportunities to learn and grow.  When a roadblock arises to your business’s growth, do not view it as a dead end, just find another way around.  Napoleon Hill also stated that, “Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success.”  Be the type of business owner (or employee or parent or spouse) that sees the seeds of success hidden in each failure.  To be otherwise is to accept a worldview of defeat that will weigh you down and stifle your dreams.

When problems come along, look them in the eye and tell them that they are “nothing much.”  Do not be discouraged, but press forward with the knowledge that you can handle it.  One of the keys to success is persistence.  Meet the problems head on, defeat them, and put them behind you.  Always try to learn from problems and failures, but do not let them define your worldview.