"When you confront a problem you begin to solve it."
Rudy Giuliani, 1944–
Major of New York City at the time of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. Named as Time magazine "Person of the Year" in 2002, he was given an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.
Everyone enjoys games and puzzles that tax our intellect and make us think.
You are taught to solve problems from your school days and you deal with problem solving every day, from what to have for breakfast to managing a route home through rush-hour traffic.
Solving business problems is no different, except for the fact that you may have no previous point of reference or experiences to help you. For example, if you haven't faced an employee's resignation before, it feels a much bigger issue than it actually is.
When faced with a new situation or problem, gather information, research the different choices and make a decision.
"I wanted to be an editor or a journalist, I wasn't really interested in being an entrepreneur, but I soon found I had to become an entrepreneur in order to keep my magazine going."
Richard Branson, 1950–
British entrepreneur whose first successful business venture was at age 16, best known for his Virgin brand encompassing more than 200 companies worldwide.
The difficulties of starting your own business put many people off from the start and so they don't do it. A little bit of fear can help by giving you clarity of thought and willingness to succeed in adversity, but you need to be able to conquer your fear of failure to ensure business success.
Whatever your natural temperament, you have to become an entrepreneur when you start a new venture. You have to overcome stumbling blocks and seemingly insurmountable problems by using entrepreneurial skills and attitudes.
In times of adversity, focus on the core issues and be persistent.
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
Thomas Edison, 1847–1931
American businessman and prolific inventor of products such as the gramophone and the light bulb.
It is inevitable that you will make mistakes – everyone does – as you haven't experienced all that there is to experience and so you don't have all the reference points you need to make the best possible decisions.
You can only make a decision drawing on your current knowledge, rather than what you don't know.
Every piece of information or situation you take part in adds to your personal library. You draw on all of the memories in your mental database to help you solve the problems you face.
Build on your successes and learn from each failure, making sure that you never repeat it.
"A real entrepreneur is somebody who has no safety net underneath them."
Henry Kravis, 1944–
American financier and investor, co-founder of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, specializing in leveraged buyouts.
When a complex issue raises its head, find an easy route through it by breaking it down into simpler components.
Start by writing down three things you need to do to get over the problem. Take each of these three solutions and write three ways to achieve it. You can keep on breaking down the issues until they seem manageable and you can begin to solve them.
By following these easy steps you create a solid action plan to follow for any seemingly impossible problem.
"You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want."
Zig Ziglar, 1926–
American motivational speaker, author of self-help books such as See You at the Top and Secrets of Closing the Sale.
When you have a problem with a complex aspect of your business, contact a non-competing company you admire and ask its managers how they would solve it.
Successful people like to help others – and they like to help people who make an effort. They're also often flattered when you come to them for advice.
Every time you contact someone new, you widen your network and you may be able to find out in an instant how to solve some of your current challenges.
"In any situation, the best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing."
Theodore Roosevelt, 1858–1919
26th President of the United States and also a historian, naturalist, author and soldier. Teddy bears were named after him.
Decision making is not an easy skill to master and often the hardest thing to do in your working day is to commit to a course of action by making a finite decision.
You will inevitably have days where your strategies and tactics don't seem to be working the way you intend them to. Remember that there are forces outside your control that affect your business and influence the direction it takes. You just have to accept this.
Don't be afraid to make a decision when you have to. Be right more often than you are wrong and your business will grow.
"The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis'. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity."
John F. Kennedy, 1917–63
Known simply as JFK, the 35th President of the United States was the youngest elected to the office and was assassinated in 1963.
Entrepreneurs enjoy making a profit, and the most successful ones are able to make money out of ever-changing market opportunities.
Markets grow and decline over varying periods. If you're on a city trading floor your opportunity might be measured in seconds; if your business is commercial property development, you're looking at years or even decades.
Successful entrepreneurs are agile enough to recognize and act on opportunities whenever and wherever they appear.
For entrepreneurs, every time is full of opportunities. Find them, seize them and use them to the full.
"Sometimes the situation is only a problem because it is looked at in a certain way. Looked at in another way, the right course of action may be so obvious that the problem no longer exists."
Edward de Bono, 1933–
British physician and author, coined the term lateral thinking and advocates the structured teaching of thinking tools in schools.
Instead of problem solving, try problem shaping by revising a question so that you can move the issue forward.
For example, the problem might be:
"Why am I unable to find more clients for my seminar series?"
Shaping the question might lead to:
"Why don't clients want to attend my seminar series?"
The answers to these two questions will be very different but they lead to the same goal.
There will always be a way past your issue – you just have to choose and follow the best path.
"One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries."
A. A. Milne, 1882–1956
British author, creator of stories and poems about Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh.
If a particular course of action isn't giving you the results you want, stop and try a new approach. The trick to successful creative thinking is to be original, ranging widely to light on ideas that are appropriate to the situation you are attempting to solve.
A useful technique to nurture creative thinking is to clear your head of all the ideas you've had before and start afresh with a free mind. This takes practice.
And if creative thinking isn't coming easily to you, don't panic. Panic clouds your judgement and leads to further frustration. Change your surroundings and environment – get away from your normal day.
"An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he'll quickly learn how to chew it."
Roy Ash, 1918–
Co-founder and president of defence company Litton Industries, director of the Office of Management and Budget under US Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
The harder the start-up process, the more likely your idea is to be a true innovation and the harder you should push the opportunity to ensure its success.
Why should a supplier take you on when you might not be able to pay for its service? Why should a client purchase your product when the majority of start-ups go out of business in the first year? Why should the bank give you a loan when your idea is unproven in the marketplace?
Ask yourself the difficult questions before your stakeholders do and come up with answers based on sound business reasoning.