Worries are an inevitable part of any business. They move along with business hand in hand. If you are in business, then you might be thinking that ‘is it really possible to eliminate the worries?’ We cannot completely eliminate the worries but we can devise effective methods to resolve them.
You might be thinking that you are running your business for several years, and you certainly know the answers if anybody does. The idea of anybody trying to tell you how you can eliminate fifty percent of my business worries—it’s absurd!
Let’s be very frank about it: maybe I won’t be able to help you eliminate fifty percent of your business worries. In the last analysis, no one can do that, except yourself. But what I can do is to show you how other people have done it—and leave the rest up to you!
You may recall the quote from the world-famous Dr. Alexis Carrel, which goes like this: “Those who do not know how to fight worry die young.”
Since worry is that serious, wouldn’t you be satisfied if I could help you eliminate even ten percent of your worries? … Yes? … Good! Well, I am going to show you how one business executive eliminated not fifty percent of his worries, but seventy-five percent of all the time he formerly spent in conferences, trying to solve business problems.
I am not going to tell you this story about a “Mr. Jones” or a “Mr. X” —vague stories that you can’t check upon. It concerns a very real person—Leon Shimkin, a former partner and general manager of one of the foremost publishing houses in these United States: Simon and Schuster, Rockefeller Center.
Here is Leon Shimkin’s experience in his own words: “For fifteen years I spent almost half of every business day holding conferences, discussing problems. Should we do this or that, or nothing at all? We would get tense; twist in our chairs; walk the floor; argue and go around in circles. When night came, I would be utterly exhausted. I fully expected to go on doing this sort of thing for the rest of my life. I had been doing it for fifteen years, and it never occurred to me that there was a better way of doing it.
If anyone had told me that I could eliminate three-fourths of all the time I spent in those worried conferences, and three-fourths of my nervous strain—I would have thought he was a wild-eyed, slap-happy, armchair optimist. Yet I devised a plan that did just that. I have been using this plan for eight years. It has performed wonders for my efficiency, my health, and my happiness.”
It sounds like magic—but like all magic tricks, it is extremely simple when you see how it is done.
“Here is the secret: First, I immediately stopped the procedure I had been using in my conferences for fifteen years—a procedure that began with my troubled associates reciting all the details of what had gone wrong, and ending up by asking: ‘What shall we do?’ Second, I made a new rule—a rule that everyone who wishes to present a problem to me must first prepare and submit a memorandum answering these four questions:
#Q1 What is the problem?
(In the old days we used to spend an hour or two in a worried conference without anyone’s knowing specifically and concretely what the real problem was. We used to work ourselves into a panic discussing our troubles without ever troubling to write out specifically what our problem was.)
#Q2 What is the cause of the problem?
(As I look back over my career, I am appalled at the wasted hours I have spent in worried conferences without ever trying to find out clearly the conditions which lay at the root of the problem.)
#Q3 What are all possible solutions to the problem?
(In the old days, one man in the conference would suggest one solution. Someone else would argue with him. Tempers would flare. We would often get clear off the subject, and at the end of the conference no one would have written down all the various things we could do to attack the problem.)
#Q4: What solution do you suggest?
(I used to go into a conference with a man who had spent hours worrying about a situation and going around in circles without ever once thinking through all possible solutions and then writing down, ‘This is the solution I recommend.’)
“My associates rarely come to me now with their problems. Why? Because they have discovered that in order to answer those four questions they have to get all the facts and think their problems through. And after they have done that they find, in three-fourths of the cases, they don’t have to consult me at all, because the proper solution has popped out like a piece of bread popping out from an electric toaster. Even in those cases where consultation is necessary, the discussion takes about one-third the time formerly required, because it proceeds along an orderly, logical path to a reasoned conclusion.
Much less time is now consumed in the house of Simon and Schuster in worrying and talking about what is wrong; and a lot more action is obtained toward making those things right.”
“My friend Frank Bettger, one of the top insurance men in America, told me he not only reduced his business worries, but nearly doubled his income, by a similar method.”
“Years ago,” said Frank Bettger, “when I first started to sell insurance, I was filled with boundless enthusiasm and love for my work. Then something happened. I became so discouraged that I despised my work and thought of giving it up. I think I would have quit—if I hadn’t got the idea, one Saturday morning, of sitting down and trying to get to the root of my worries.”
Following questions helped him to get into the root cause of the problem and then also to find out the way ahead for the solution.
#Q1 Just what is the problem?
The problem was: that I was not getting high enough returns for the staggering amount of calls I was making. I seemed to do pretty well at selling a prospect until the moment came for closing a sale. Then the customer would say, ‘Well, I’ll think it over, Mr. Bettger. Come and see me again.’ It was the time I wasted on these follow-up calls that was causing my depression.
#Q2 What are the possible solutions?
But to get the answer to that one, I had to study the facts. I got out my record book for the last twelve months and studied the figures.
“I made an astounding discovery! Right there in black and white, I discovered that seventy percent of my sales had been closed on the very first interview! Twenty-three percent of my sales had been closed on the second interview! And only seven percent of my sales had been closed on those third, fourth, fifth, etc., interviews, which were running me ragged and taking up time. In other words, I was wasting fully one-half of my working day on a part of my business which was responsible for only seven percent of my sales!
#Q3 What is the answer?
The answer was obvious. I immediately cut out all visits beyond the second interview and spent the extra time building up new prospects. The results were unbelievable. In a very short time, I had doubled the cash value of every visit I made.”
Frank Bettger became one of the best-known life insurance salesmen in the country. But he was on the point of giving up. He was on the point of admitting failure—until analyzing the problem gave him a boost on the road to success.
Can you apply these questions to your business problems? To repeat my challenge—they can reduce your worries by fifty percent. Here they are again:
What is the problem?
What is the cause of the problem?
What are all possible solutions to the problem?
What solution do you suggest?
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” – Winston Churchill