Greg Smith

Greg Smith

Every customer who comes into your business has a problem, and they are looking for you to help solve it.

Perhaps they need a dress for their daughter’s wedding or a special gift. They have a flat tire or need a specific tool for a project. Their faucet is dripping, their pick-up’s engine light came on, their septic tank needs pumped, they need a loan to buy a house or are being sued.

What problem does your business solve, and how do you accomplish this more effectively than your competitors?

Have you thought about this, and do you need to make any adjustments?

Here are some basic things you may want to consider:

• Are you open when your customer needs you? (I know of a hair stylist who only works in the evenings and on Saturday and Sunday, because that’s when her working clients and students are available and is something her competitors won’t do.)

• Do you offer quality products or services at the right price point?

• Is your website complicated? (Remember, if it takes more than three “clicks” to find the information a customer wants to know, they will leave your site — and likely won’t return.)

• When a customer calls, is there a complex automated system they must navigate?

• In short, is it a hassle to do business with you or are you the first business they turn to when seeking an answer to their problem?

The answers to these questions sound simple yet are often the root cause for slow — or no — business.

On the other side of the equation, employers want employees who are problem solvers, not problem creators. I have addressed the importance of “soft skills” in a previous article, but the reality of this cannot be over-stated.

Employees, regardless of their skill set, are not employed long if they create problems. The number one complaint (i.e. problem) I consistently hear about from employers is they cannot find people who want to work and who will show up to work on time — or at all. Perhaps you don’t consider yourself a problem creator but take a moment and ask yourself these questions:

• Are you dependable?

• Do you cause strife in the workplace?

• Are you busy texting instead of looking around to see what needs to be done — and doing it?

• Do you complete your work on time? Does your boss have to come behind you and double check to make sure the task has been done correctly?

• Do you access resources to answer the questions you might have, or do you consistently interrupt the workflow of others?

Identifying a need whether as a business owner or employee and utilizing your unique skill set is one of the most important keys to success, profitability and longevity in the workplace. Being a creative problem solver is not just something beneficial in the workplace, but in society as well, and is something each of us can contribute to in some way.

Greg Smith is the director of the Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center, 1607 Gekeler Lane, Room 148, La Grande. For free, confidential business advising, call 541-962-1532 or email

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