problem solvingGuest Post by Lisa Gerber

It was 2009. My entire world was focused on recovering from the Great Recession. Heck, I was hoping just to make it through. My PR business (Big Leap Creative) was barely five years old at the time, and I, sadly, had to let my one employee go. It was back to me.

I had taken one step forward, two steps back, and I wasn’t sure how to reverse it.

In hindsight, I was doing OK surviving that period. But “doing OK” wasn’t enough. That’s when I realized while I knew my business well, I didn’t know the business of my business.

I’d like to talk about the decision making process of fixing problems. Some of us are of the mind to go about problem solving. Others wait. Either for someone to come fix it for them, or for it to fix itself. I’m guessing most of us here are of the former mindset.

Often, identifying the precise problem is the first hurdle.

One day the solution fell in my lap. A brochure arrived in the mail, almost as if the Universe was listening. It was a brochure for the PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference, a gathering of agency leaders and CEOs with a speaker agenda and attendees discussing the business side of running a PR agency.

I looked at the agenda and found topics on all the things I had questions about – not about practicing PR, but about running a PR business. It spoke to me. This is what I needed.

The only thing is, it wasn’t cheap and I was worried the investment wouldn’t be worth it. This is always the question, isn’t it.

Can you justify the expense of the solution?

I’d hired consultants, and made investments in vast software platforms thinking these would revolutionize my life, only to be disappointed.

Recently, I was on a call with a salesperson vetting hospitality analytics platforms for a client. When I asked how much it cost, she said, “We don’t like to focus on budget, rather, ROI.”

Well that’s all fine and good. But if my client can’t afford the “I”, they sure as hell are not going to be able to enjoy the “R.”

 Sometimes, looking at ROI makes sense but in other instances, the R is simply not quantifiable. You can’t quantify the lifetime value of a relationship, or added knowledge.

You could use a divining pendulum like my friend in Santa Monica uses to make her decision at the butcher on what to have for dinner tonight. That seems to work for some people.

You could look at the opportunity cost. If you don’t invest in it, what do you risk? This is always a good one. Perhaps you lose out to your competition. Perhaps you become unable to deliver on something. Perhaps you simply can’t live without it.

But I just have to go on instinct sometimes.

I took that brochure, dogeared and softened with much use, and put it in my briefcase, where it slowly was pushed to the bottom of the bag, further abused, but not forgotten. I told myself I had until April 1 to make the decision. (That was the early registration rate deadline.)

I didn’t try to quantify, didn’t use my divining pendulum, didn’t look at opportunity cost, or even totally obey my instinct. I waited for a sign. And that sign arrived in the end of the month as a new client signing a contract.

Attending Counselors Academy is now a non-negotiable item in my budget because I finally found my place where I can go, meet with now dear friends and share the same challenges and lessons, and best practices.

We solve problems. We empathize and commiserate and celebrate. I simply can’t wait to sit poolside with my girlfriend and talk about scaling business, HR issues, and how to price stuff. Call me a geek if you must.

If you have the same problem as I do, I hope you’ll think about attending this year’s Counselors Academy Spring Conference.

A few more things might entice you:

*Shonali is speaking twice! “Trends, Tech and Training: What Agency Leaders Must Know to Stay Ahead” and “Lights, Camera, Action! Build Your Power and Presence Through Performance”

*It’s in beautiful Laguna Beach, May 3 to 5

*The early registration deadline is April 2, so you have time

Whether Counselors Academy is for you or not, I hope you’ll find a way to fearlessly face the problems you wish to solve and not shy away from the risk involved, be it by way of your divining pendulum, your instinct, a sign from the universe or in-depth analysis.

If you have a method to add, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Image: Sunny Studio via Shutterstock, Standard License issued to Lisa Gerber

Lisa GerberLisa Gerber is founder of Big Leap Creative, an integrated communications firm, working virtually with businesses around the globe from her mountain headquarters in Idaho. She blogs about marketing and balancing ambition with happiness. She does her best creative problem-solving out on the trail with her black lab setting a mean pace.