Even good business owners face challenges.

When issues arise, advisors should consult a business expert and follow the steps good doctors take to diagnose and treat the problems to create a healthy, vibrant business.

WHAT’S WRONG?

Doctors usually start by asking patients why they’ve come to the office. Usually the reply is the symptom – the classic, “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” The doctor then gathers additional information, including the patient’s history, how long the symptoms have been occurring, what activities or changes may have precipitated the symptoms, and how the symptoms are affecting overall health, now and in the long term.

The business owner or consultant must also define the problem. What led up to the problem? Has it been a problem in the past? Identify the how the problem is currently affecting the business and what impact it will have long-term if unaddressed.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Once the doctor has identified the underlying problem and its related symptoms, he or she will review all the possible solutions, taking into consideration the degree of cost, pain and inconvenience.

Business owners and consultants should also generate and consider all possible solutions, from “do nothing” (choosing to ignore or maintain status quo) to “drastic change” (fire a person, hire a person, change business models or implement expensive new technology).

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

From all the possible options, the doctor narrows the field to the few that will alleviate the symptoms, treat the underlying problem and improve the patient’s overall health. He or she also considers how to best use available resources, such as medication, therapy, insurance coverage and wellness programs.

Business owners and consultants must evaluate the options for those that maximize the strengths of a business or team, that fix the problem collaboratively and that offer maximum benefit for minimal cost. The final solution should be what’s best for overall business health – which may not mean the easiest or cheapest option.

TREATMENT

Then comes the crucial part: treatment. The best medicine in the world doesn’t work if the patient doesn’t take it, and the best business solution in the world doesn’t help if your team doesn’t implement it. Schedule regular check-ups to ensure the prescribed treatments – whether it’s more training, expense management or new procedures – have been followed. If the problem persists, you may need to consider other treatment options.

Not facing any immediate aches, pains or lethargy in your business? Consider doing an annual check-up before year-end. As with your health, some problems aren’t immediately noticeable. An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure, so set aside time each year to give your business a physical and identify potential problems before they cripple your practice.

Chris Kirby is a business consultant for Securities America's Practice Management Group and serves as a consultant/coach for the firm’s Business Consulting Service, helping advisors manage a more efficient, profitable and satisfying practice. 

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