Are You Solving The Real Problem?

Far too often when running our companies we combat troubling symptoms, thinking those symptoms are problems, instead of solving actual problems.

We throw more money at ads to try and get more people in our store…even though other, similar, ads have never worked before. The problem we think we have is simply exposure…if only more people saw this ad, it will work! Or…could there be something bigger at play to explain why they ad hasn’t worked even for a small group of people?

We have our customer service team put out fires…we must serve our customers every need! But, we’re not sure why so many fires exist in the first place…

Problems Vs. Symptoms

What is going on here? Why do we spend so much time on symptoms, not problems? Why do we mistake symptoms for problems?

The easy answer is because symptoms are easy to spot while problems are not. It is easy to see the fire to put out (a customer screaming at you about an issue with your product is pretty much always pretty easy to spot), but it is harder to see the trends telling you why the fires exist at all (the underlying problem).

Even if you see that trend, figuring out how to solve the problem may not be all that easy…certainly not as easy as resolving the issue and keeping the customer happy right now, as quickly as possible, so that they don’t cancel their subscription, stop referring customers, blast you on social media…ack! (Panic…great driver to make us focus on symptoms.)

In the same way, it is easy to throw money at yet another ad because “I need exposure” (symptom), but it is quite a bit harder to ask if you are reaching your target customers in the right way. It is even harder to ask if you have even correctly defined your target customers correctly (the real, underlying problem).

Even if you know you need to adjust your ad targeting, figuring that out is time consuming and hard and I just need that exposure right now and the ad is an easy way to solve that…again, that panic and stress comes up and that┬ámakes us want to deal with the symptom right now instead of dealing with the bigger problem.


Along with how hard problems can be to spot and how hard it is to take time to deal with those problems if found, I think there is a deeper answer here too. Symptoms are, quite frankly, easier to accept.

It is easy to accept that fires exist, that a few customers may have issues with a product. Instead, it is hard to accept that fires may exist because our product or service is fundamentally broken.

It is easy to accept that we just need more exposure so run that ad, but it is hard to accept that we may not understand our target customers. Or, worse, accept that we don’t have enough customers in our market to sustain our business with the current product offering.

Are You Solving The Real Problem?

Of course, to grow our companies we have to face the real problems head on. We can’t shy away because those problems are hard. We can’t shy away because the problems are hard to accept. We have to face the problem, accept it, and fix it.

How do you do that? How do you make sure you are focused on the problem and not a symptom?

There is really only one way to do that: by continually asking if you are solving the real problem.

With every decision you are forced to make in your business, ask “Am I addressing the real problem?”

But, asking that question isn’t enough. The trick, in order to find the real problem, is to answer that question with “no”. Answering “no” pushes you to keep digging and digging until you find the real problem causing your issues. Only when you’ve dug so far in that there is nowhere else to go are you allowed to answer “yes, I’ve found the real problem”.

Then, when you have reached the real problem at play, that when you need to accept whatever you find to be the real problem and solve that real problem. Otherwise, if you give up before digging to deep, you will just keep chasing symptoms, never addressing the core problems that plauge your business. If all you do are chase symptoms, growth will be hard…if not impossible.

What about you and your company? Are you chasing symptoms or solving real problems holding back growth?