A Good Problem To Have

In evaluating our own business ventures or situations, we often rate not only our victories but our problems, too. This is one part being tough and one part being generous with ourselves, in order to keep momentum, some wind in our sails.

How often have we said about one hindrance or another, "That's a good problem to have." Then we may breathe a sigh of relief. We are OK;  profitability issues, bloated client base, staff dissonance, boot-strapped tools set, noisy competitive space - all these "problems" be damned. Every so-called problem can be interpreted as a positive -- until you have too many of them at once.

I heard a great take on this business platitude last week. In a short one-on-one interview with Dennis Crowley held by 212NYC, we heard from the Foursquare co-founder and CEO on the sometimes-awkward pains of big growth. Crowley spoke very openly about the challenges the company has faced as it has focused on advancing and evolving its model, while growing like a weed. One could not help think of a growing teenager: arms, legs, muscles, wisdom and action often are trying to catch up to popularity as it bubbles and unfolds.



Crowley said something to the effect of this: "We like to tell ourselves these kinds of things are 'good problems to have' --  but really, we can only allow ourselves ONE of those 'good problems to have.'"

Insert yourself into this mindset as you think about your own path or that of your management team. It's one thing to get real about false affirmations. Most of us stopped looking in the mirror long ago and saying, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darnit -- people like me!" But we may still fall back on the "good problem to have" mantra.

If we are being honest, profitability issues are no joke; a bloated client base is often loaded with the wrong kind of business; staff dissonance is NOT always creative tension; a bootstrapped tools set yields bad output and creates major blind spots.  And some of the "noise" in your competitive space is real competition finding its legs.

A positive outlook is one thing, but we can do ourselves great harm by too often reinterpreting real danger. So, if you take Crowley's creed and constructively, aggressively deal with the problems you can fix now, perhaps you can allow yourself to view one, and only one, of those problems at a time as an opportunity. You sit with it for a bit, then embrace and tackle it, so that its remedy can transport you to the next level. Maybe this is an overhaul and realignment of your seeping client base, maybe it's a competitive repositioning to get ahead of the noise, maybe it's therapy for your feuding management team.

Allowing yourself one good problem to have  -- and giving yourself the room and time to address it -- seems like good discipline and clear thinking.

1 comment about "A Good Problem To Have".
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  1. Mark Stockwell from Consultant, August 1, 2011 at 1:35 p.m.

    Bullseye Kendall, I have sat through to many ops reviews and QBR's where status has been Green (or worse Yellow which means nothing) and we have convinced ourselves that these are good problems to have. Business if fraught with challenge and hyper growth is a great problem to have but it is by our own title a problem. Ops or Business status is Red or Green, Red means we got work to do, Green means we need to expand our thinking and if you use Yellow it means you are fooling yourselves, change it to Red.

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