(Time to read this Blog is about 2.5 minutes)

Before we get to the main topic, here are a few things to get you thinking:

  1. My Biz Quote of the week:
    “Many business owners have said things to me like, “I’m lucky to have such a great team.”  or, “God has blessed me with a wonderful team!” .  But the truth is that the Team you have has very little to do with luck and nothing to do with God.
    The Team you have is a reflection of who you are as a human being and as a leader.  It has to do with how smart, kind and respectful you are.  It has to do with your commitment to grow people as a way of growing your business.  The truth is that we all get the Team we deserve.
    …Donald Cooper.
  1. Technology has always been disruptive. In 1861, the Western Union company completed the transcontinental telegraph that allowed messages to be sent across America, using Morse Code, in just minutes.  Just 2 months later, the Pony Express, that relied on horses and riders to deliver mail, went out of business. 
  2. Hiring tip. When interviewing job candidates, if they ask, “How much am I going to get?”, terminate the interview as quickly as possible and move on.  The people who ask, “How much am I going to get?” usually mean, “…by doing as little as possible.”  But they never finish the sentence.

Look for people who ask, “How much could I earn?”  We want ‘earners’ not ‘getters’. It’s an entirely different mentality.


Now, to this week’s important topic:


Do you have the insight & courage to fix the real problems in your business? 

In every business there are:

  1. surface problems which are actually just symptoms of much deeper problems,
  2. underlying problems…and finally,
  3. the real or basic problems that are the root cause of what’s going wrong.

There’s a tendency for all of us as business owners, leaders and managers to focus on the surface symptoms and not on the underlying and real basic problems because the surface problems are more obvious, easier to address and much less threatening. Dealing with surface problems allows us to point a finger at someone else, rather than ourselves.  But we’ll never solve anything without digging deeper, no matter how uncomfortable it gets. 

Let’s use a medical example of symptoms, underlying and basic problems.  ‘High blood pressure’ is really just a symptom of a number of underlying issues like consuming too much salt and too many calories, not drinking enough water, physical and emotional stress, or not exercising enough. But the real basic problem could be lack of information or motivation, toxic lifestyle or career choices, unhappiness, lack of self-discipline or self-esteem.  If we don’t address these real basic problems, the underlying problems will continue and the symptom (high blood pressure) will persist.   

So, let’s say that our business has an unhealthy bottom line. That could be a symptom of a number of underlying problems like not having a clear and compelling value proposition, ineffective sales and marketing, excessive discounting, not understanding the math of profitability, poor expense control, antiquated information systems, low staff morale, failure to deal with non-performance, failure to make key decisions, etc. Those are all underlying problems. The basic problem is ineffective management and leadership.

Or, let’s say that some aspects of our customer service or customer experience aren’t what they need to be.  Those are not problems…they’re symptoms of underlying problems such as lack of clear expectations or high standards, hiring the wrong people, lack of proper training, ineffective communication, lack of empowerment, dysfunctional systems and processes, a negative business culture, no performance measurement, a lack of passion for and love of customers, or failure to listen to customers and front-line staff…all of which are the result of the basic problem of ineffective management and leadership.  We don’t ‘fix’ bad customer service.  We ‘fix’ the underlying and basic problems that are causing it.  

The basic problems, the ones we’re reluctant to identify and deal with, could be managers at various levels (including ourselves) who are not aware, not focused on the right things, not properly trained, don’t have time, haven’t made the transition from ‘player’ to ‘coach’, are not empowered, not interested or simply not capable. 

As painful as it may be, we must deal with the real challenges in our business and not just the surface and underlying problems. That requires insight and courage and may require outside perspective and help in some form.

How do we get to the real basic problems?  It’s easy…uncomfortable…but easy.  We’ll involve the best minds and most courageous truth-sayers in our business.  We’ll start by stating what appears to be a problem or shortfall in the business and then say, “Which is caused by __________.”   and we’ll list all the underlying causes of that problem or shortfall, as we best understand them.

Then, for each of those underlying problems or shortfalls, we’ll ask again, “Which is caused by __________.”   We’ll keep asking and answering that question honestly and courageously, each time digging a little deeper until we get to the real basic cause.  That’s the thing or person that needs to be improved, coached, refocused, fixed or dealt with in some other way.  Sorry, but that’s reality and ‘the beginning of wisdom is the recognition of reality.’ 

Finally, we’ll determine what action we commit to take to fix the basic problem…and by when.  Most businesses are reluctant to embrace this process because the deeper we go, the closer to the top of the organization we get.

This exercise takes both insight and courage, but it’s the only way to get to the real issues that are holding back the business and hurting the bottom line.  The alternative is to carry on in blissful denial until it’s too late.  If you’d like to chat about this, I’m easy to find at donald@donaldcooper.com in Toronto, Canada.


That’s it for this week…

Stay safe…live brilliantly!       

Donald Cooper 


Donald Cooper speaks and coaches internationally on management, marketing, and profitability.  He can be reached by email at donald@donaldcooper.com in Toronto, Canada.

2 Responses to Do you have the insight & courage to fix the real problems in your business?
  1. Comment * Brilliant Donald. This focus will now be a strategy to help us improve how we do business,striv for customer service excellence and work with our teams. I’m adding it to every meeting agenda going forward.

  2. Comment *Donald, thank you for your insight throughout the years, you have been a definite asset to me and my team!!


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