40-Day Business Leadership Peak Performance Programme Day 3: Collecting Problems

Hey, welcome to Day 3. So did you collect some small problems and use the STOP, START, CONTINUE tool? Did you make a list? If you did, then well done.

Understand: every business has problems. It is naive to think you will have no problems. What you will find is the more successful you get the more problems will show up. So youneed get good at identifying and resolving problems.

But yesterday I asked you to start collecting problems. Let’s explore what ‘collecting problems’ means. I asked you to:

Make a List

i) Right now create a short list of anything that’s got your attention that remotely feels like a problem. Start with what’s obvious.

Phil, is the general manager of a small cabinet making business. Phil’s company employs about 12 staff. Here’s the short list he created:

  • We currently lease a router for £4k a month that no one knows how to operate so the machine is idle most of the time.
  • People are buying personal items on their fuel cards i.e., food, magazines, drinks etc and not giving us the receipts. (Which is annoying and sneaky).
  • We’re actually losing money on every delivery outside a 25-mile radius.
  • This is not really a fun place to work lately. It used to be but people look tired and stressed. We used to joke more but lately we don’t.
  • Trevor and I don’t play squash on Wednesday afternoons any more.
  • Our sales people are not meeting their targets.
  • We’re not training the junior customer service guys each week anymore. We’re too busy.
  • Staff are parking in customer car parks. I’ve told them not to but they still do it.
  • We stopped having daily work-in-progress (WIP) meetings.
  • I can never get accurate data from our accounting software i.e., back costing.
  • I haven’t had a holiday in about 13 months.
  • Kelly is using her mobile phone in the packing room (which is illegal).
  • We are losing a lot money on Tony who is currently giving away free design advice which we should be charging for. We pay his salary but we are not monetising his role.

Get the idea? Just whatever comes to mind. Make a list.

In this list, notice most of the problems listed above are business related but there are also couple of personal issues that made it to the list. And notice it’s a mix of benign problems and more serious problems.

Pick 3

ii) Next, pick three small problems to work on using the STOP, START, CONTINUE tool. Phil decided to work on the car-parking problem; having daily WIP meetings; and the girl using her mobile phone in the packing room (apparently this is an illegal workplace health and safety issue).

Next I asked Phil to try the STOP, START and CONTINUE tool on these problems.

If you have time click here for a short podcast



Make your own list of problems and then pick an easy problem to use the STOP, START and CONTINUE tool on.

You might reread Phil’s list and see if you can categorise his problems into what appears to you as business and personal; serious and minor; hard to fix; and easy to fix. Play with Phil’s list, first, to get the hang of it.

For best results, every day over the next 40 days, collect problems, frustrations, concerns or issues every day. Just the obvious ones. Don’t write War and Peace. Bullet points is OK.

For your reference: I get my clients to collect problems for a minimum of six weeks. At the end of each week we review the lists. Pretty soon patterns start to emerge. I guarantee you will start to see a pattern to your problems too, but more on that later.

Ian runs a steel detailing business and he collected problems for six weeks and he discovered five distinct patterns that all of his problems fell into. Problems with software, hardware, designer issues, client issues and estimator/system issues. Six if you count other.

For example, a key problem was designers taking too long on projects and exceeding their time budgets. Ian wanted to understand the cost blow outs. Was it software? Hardware issues? Designer skills? Client issues? Estimator issues? Identifying the pattern of problems gave him a brilliant checklist.

Ian discovered that clients had found a way to by-pass the estimator and go direct to the designer for design amendments. Ian was stunned because all design amendments had to be quoted by the estimator. No wonder the designers were talking so long. Importantly, Ian wondered why the estimator hadn’t picked this up!

Troy runs a maintenance service for block managers. Over six weeks he collected maintenance problems and discovered they fall into four distinct categories ranging from simple issues through to major works projects and insurance claims. His big insight was to stop sending a maintenance manager out on site for every service issue. The maintenance manager now only goes out on major works problems. Troy has adjusted his staffing and procedures and the maintenance department is now really efficient, hassle free and profitable.

Collect enough problems and you will start seeing patterns; and you may even spot opportunities.


As a bonus I have permission to include snippets from live coaching sessions so you can hear how this is delivered to a live client. The names and companies have been changed or omitted entirely to protect privacy but the interaction is real.

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Andrew Priestley is a qualified business leadership coach with clients worldwide. He is the author of The Money Chimp, Starting and How Money Flows Through Your Business. You can contact him through www.andrewpriestley.com

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It goes without saying that this is for information only and The Author  cannot be held responsible for any losses or damages that occur as a result of reading this material.

© 2017 Andrew Priestley/TCE Ltd

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