Thinking Out Loud: Don’t Bring Me Problems, Bring Me Solutions

Thinking Out Loud – Episode 1

This is the first episode in a series called Thinking Out Loud. In these videos, Armando Lanuti, the President of Creative Works, shares some of his thoughts on business, leadership, growth, operations, and anything else on his mind. Below is a transcript of some of the points he discusses in the video.

I wanted share some random thoughts as we entered 2018. As a business owner, like many of you, I run into problems that I have to fix on a daily basis. If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, there will inevitably be fires that need to be put out.

It’s very easy, as a business owner, to get trapped into putting out fires on a day-to-day basis; this ends up causing you to work “in your business” and not “on your business.” The biggest problem is that it prevents growth; it prevents expansion and prevents you from getting to the important things that make your business more profitable: whether it be a top-line revenue number or net profit.

So, one of the things I’d like to do is share some tips from some of the random I’ve learned as as we’re trying to move through the growing process that we’ve been going through for the last several years.

We follow a practice called “Don’t bring me problems. Bring me solutions.” First and foremost, we try to empower team members so that you know if they run into a problem, they’re able to take care of it. They feel like they have the knowledge, the capabilities, and the authority to knock out the small things.

I don’t need to get stopped for everything. I don’t want to get interrupted. Or maybe I’m at a trade show or a convention; it’s not that I don’t want to help, it’s that I’m not available and they need to solve the situation now.

So they’re in the heat of the moment; we ask them to put themselves in our shoes, as an owner. And they need to think though that problem.

What would they do if it was their neck on the line? If it was their check they had to write? How would they handle the situation? Where do they find that balance between value, time, and cost?

And, as they go through that process over time, they learn what you want and what you expect out of those results.

On a weekly basis, when problems happen, whether it be with an individual team member or department, we’ll discuss the hurdles that they had to face; what their thought process was to get through that hurdle and then what solution they chose. And at that point, you’ve got a couple things you can do as a business owner.

First and foremost, you need to provide the “atta-boys.” Whether you liked the solutions or you didn’t, you provide those “atta-boys” for taking care of the problem. You’re then able to have a discussion. Maybe you say, “Yes that was exactly the way I wouldn’t handled it. Perfect.” That way they know to handle it in the same way when the situation arises again.
Or maybe it’s, “You know what? That was great for the moment. You took care of what needed to be taken care of. But now that we’re not under the gun, let’s think through your solution. Let’s maybe adjust it or make these minor tweaks.”

Or maybe you take a completely different approach. But you don’t want to scold them, as long as there was some thought that was put into this decision. I never want to punish action. It’s inaction that I want to punish and discourage in my team members. I want them to feel empowered to take care of things; to take action.

In the conversation, maybe you say, “Next time, this is what I would do.” Or, “In a similar situation, maybe we should try this.” Or even give them a couple options. So the next time this arises, whether it be tomorrow, next week, next month, or a year from now, they have a foundation of knowledge on what to do; how to take care of it.

Through those discussions and when those situations happen, they understand how you think. They are better at providing the solutions that make sense and what you would do in those scenarios.

The second thing to think about is, no matter what, they will inevitably hit scenarios they don’t have a way to solve. Whether it’s because they don’t have the authority, the issue is big enough, or they’re just stumped. In those situations, they have to bring me solutions. They can’t just say “I’ve got this problem and I don’t know what to do.” That’s not an answer that’s allowed around here.

They have to come up and say, “Okay, here’s what happened and what needs to get taken care of. Here’s solution A, solution B, and solution C. This is why I think A might be the best choice.”

Then we have a discussion. We go through the pros and cons of each, and then I’m able to put my imprint on those larger decisions; those larger adjustments, hurdles, and problems that need to be addressed. I make sure I’m involved when these larger things come up, and it also allows them to further understand my thought process.

It doesn’t necessarily mean I have to choose one of the solutions they brought me. Maybe solution D comes out of our discussion. It could be a combination of other solutions, or something entirely different.

These discussions are helpful because, as an owner, I bring a completely different perspective to light.

That’s the way we’ve worked on growing and getting better at what we do on a daily basis. And so, that’s my random thought of the day.

Hopefully it helps your business as much as it helps mine.