There is no shortage of challenges in a small business owner’s day. And with new issues, like supply chain disruption, finding employees, and the continued divisiveness of the world in which we live, it can seem overwhelming. Our default is to want to commiserate, then one-up each other to see who has it worse. What we forget is that energy is better spent looking for winning solutions.

As with many things, much of our human nature is not built for us to thrive in our current modern-day times — it is built to keep us alive and conserve energy. But as modern humans/business owners, we must change our mindset. We cannot always react, react, react. We have to remove that knee jerk reaction as the decision-maker and just use it as a warning sign.

For example, it is natural for us to commiserate so we can build community and survive as a species together. In the modern world, commiserating creates a need to one-up each other. This causes everyone involved to have a feeling of insurmountable odds.

Much of the conversation in online groups and social media goes a little like this:

  • I can’t find anyone who has the shirts in stock I need for my order.
  • I can’t find stock and don’t have any time in my day to deal with it.
  • I raise you the lack of stock, lack of time, and add lack of profit because prices are going up.
  • I raise you the lack of stock, lack of time, lack of profit, and add the extra time it is taking for shipping.
  • I raise you the lack of stock, lack of time, lack of profit, extra shipping time, and add extra shipping cost.
  • I raise you the lack of stock, lack of time, lack of profit, extra shipping time, extra shipping cost, and add the holiday shipping time extension.
  • I raise you the lack of stock, lack of time, lack of profit, extra shipping time, extra shipping cost, holiday shipping time extension, and add the reduced quality of stock.
  • I raise you the lack of stock, lack of time, lack of profit, extra shipping time, extra shipping cost, holiday shipping time extension, reduced quality, and add getting customers to believe the issues are real.

And it goes on and on until we all want to go hide under a rock because the outlook is so grim. But is this working? Outside of the initial “at least I am not in this alone,” how are solutions being encouraged?

When I started Our Success Group (OSG), I thought that the big needs would be the nuts and bolts of running a business, marketing, how-tos, etc. But what I have learned is most small business owners have 99% of those nuts and bolts already in their tool belt. What we all struggle with is confidence, belief in ourselves, and the right mindset.

This scarcity mindset, this poverty mindset, this need to one-up each other on who has it worse is just a programmed limiting belief from our past. What it takes to overcome challenges is a solution mindset.

A better idea to me is to share how we have overcome the challenge and encourage people to one-up us in solutions. This can bring new ideas, innovation, and even permanently change things for the better. The winners will be the innovators, the disruptors, the outside-of-the-box thinkers, the people not willing to believe it is just the way that it is.

Challenges foster growth. To be able to tackle the challenges, we must change our thoughts, beliefs, and mindset. Only then can we change our outcomes.

Positive Outcomes

We need techniques to change these thoughts, so I want to share one of the best I have found. When faced with a challenge, stop. Don’t react. Instead, take a moment, leave the room, do some exercise, whatever it takes to clear your mind. Once your mind is clear, come up with at least three potential positive outcomes. What will facing and overcoming this challenge potentially bring you in the future that you might not have otherwise?

For example, with the supply shortages, potential positive outcomes could be:

  • New strong relationships with customers – more interaction, more working together to solve problems.
  • Alternative options – find new sources and ways to get your products.
  • Better processes – you need more time to place orders, so those little issues that you just dealt with since ordering used to be so fast are now glaring. Fix them and build an SOP to better streamline ordering.
  • Changes in the customer’s preferences – because of the lack of cheap, less-sustainable shirts, the customer might now open their mind and pocketbook to better available options.
  • More local supply options or resources – if the garment is made in the U.S., it is not on a boat in the port. There are USA-made options. I even know some people that have partnered with local sewers to create the items they need.
  • Break the “way it has always been.” – are the big distributors really the best option? Could be yes, could be no.

What I see is a lot of people telling us the reason why we are at this point but have yet to see someone offer up a solution. Many distributors will use this opportunity to raise prices, but how are they participating in the solution? More transparency, less waste.

These challenges will make enough people mad that it will drive innovation. It will push more nimble and mobile suppliers into the spotlight.

8 Solutions to Try Right Now

I started this by saying we need to work on more solutions, so I can’t end without providing some thoughts. I also want to share a few nuts-and-bolts ideas, too. How do we get from blaming, complaining, excuse-making, commiserating to finding solutions?

  1. Drop out of the “ain’t it awful” club. A quote from a renowned marine artist, Wyland, sums it up pretty well: “There are two types of people, anchors and motors. You want to lose the anchors and get with the motors because the motors are going somewhere and having more fun. The anchors will just drag you down.” Make deliberate decisions about the groups you are in, the posts you read, the people you listen to. If you want a successful six- to seven-figure business, then the crafter group where they show the stolen copyright artwork are not for you. The people who like to share their problems and one-up others are also not for you.
  2. Focus on the have, not the have not. When we work from a place of finding solutions based on what we have, then we can see the future. When we focus on the things we don’t have, our brain looks to the past and reminds us of why we don’t have it. To overcome the have-not mentality, techniques like having a gratitude journal, focusing on affirmation, and the things that bring you joy can do the trick if persistently focused on. New ideas also come from the people and things in the have column. You will never find a solution in the problem.
  3. Release limiting beliefs. After identifying them, release and replace the limiting beliefs with new ones that serve you. You can use the above positive mindset to slowly replace your inner critic with an inner coach, or find a program, coach or counselor to help bust through your limiting beliefs.
  4. Many times when we are hit with these challenges as a business owner, it can feel like we are alone. It’s part of why we commiserate. But what you really need is accountability. Someone to encourage you, but also help you make sure you work toward the solutions. The keyboard warriors of the internet are not going to be that for you — find a real community. At Our Success Group, I work tirelessly to build that community.
  5. Refine your options/fire customers. When you had the scarcity mindset and the feeling like the sky was falling all the time, you took on any job that you could, inventorying every possible item any customer could want, and chasing every person that had a dime to their name. This is a perfect time to tighten up your options. Use this challenge as an opportunity to focus on your core customers; stop chasing the latest and greatest. When only working with your core customers, you can become the best in your niche because your core customers are your niche.
  6. Vendor relationships. Most people in the good times only knew their vendors as a username and password. They placed orders online that arrived in a day or two. But those folks who actually have relationships with their vendors are the ones who will come out on top. Know what person (not just a phone number) to contact should an issue arise or if you need help in a bind. If you can’t get a rep, find another source. The stronger the relationship you build with your vendors, the better off you will be. As someone who has built customer relationships in the industry for over 21 years, I worked a heck of a lot harder for those customers who also valued me.
  7. New vendors. These challenges we are facing are a great reminder that all things in your business should have a backup. Even if you don’t need a new vendor right now, carve out some time to look around, test some options, and have a plan B. The best time to find a new vendor is when you don’t need one. The worst time is when you are desperate and end up taking whatever you can find.
  8. Employee/stakeholder relationships. Like our vendors, relationships with employees or others that are involved with our business (spouses, friends, family who gives advice, etc.) need to be nurtured. Be open and transparent with them — you might be surprised at how much help and support you had sitting right under your nose.