As a business leader, you must be willing to take risks if you want to succeed. In my professional role as a financial analyst, impact investor, and entrepreneur, I have taken many risks and experienced my share of problems and setbacks along the way. But, through the toughest times, I’ve found that it is important to learn, to grow, and to keep moving.
I have been fighting and taking risks all my life. In my youth, I had a speech impediment and was diagnosed with dyslexia. I remember overhearing my teacher in grade school telling my parents that she would be shocked if I ever finished high school. As a young adult, I found a love for mountain climbing and exploration and am now just one out of about 85 people to have completed the Seven Summits—having scaled the highest peaks on all seven continents.
My personal experiences have led me to become a resilient and agile leader in business. Climbing the world’s tallest mountains is much like building and leading a business. It will be hard, you will never be completely prepared, and you will likely fail before you succeed.
Building a business takes gumption, big ideas, and thoughtful determination, but maintaining that business requires strategic problem-solving skills and ingenuity.
A common misconception about business leaders is that they always know what to do and how to move forward. On the contrary, and much like climbing a mountain, being a good problem-solver requires a methodical and considered approach.
If you find you are quick to make decisions, take some time to slow down and really analyze the problem and your approach to it. Here are three tactics that help me in striving to be a strategic problem-solver:
- Get in the middle.
It becomes easy for business leaders to wait for others to come to them. Instead, step outside of your office and go find out for yourself. Ask questions and be available for others to explain and show you what is happening. Take notes and thank others for being forthcoming and aware.
- Frame your problem.
Identifying the problem might seem easy but framing it as an actual statement might not. Write out what the problem is and why it is so troublesome. I was once told about the 40-20-10-5 rule for framing a problem and have used it countless times throughout my career. Write a problem statement of about 40 words, then pare it down to 20 words, then ten words, and then finally to only five words. Knowing the full scope of a problem before simplifying it can help explain and reach the root of it.
- Chart your solutions.
Lastly, once you have your problem framed in a series of simple statements, map out your solutions. You might create a flowchart, or a simple solution followed by the actionable steps it will take to get to your goal. There are likely many ways to solve any given problem, but most important is choosing the most effective and least damaging solution(s). This requires concise decision-making and considered discussions with others.
Problems are not roadblocks, they are diversions. You can still reach your destination, but you may have to find another way around. Stay diligent, focused, and work as a team to find success.
About Bo Parfet
Bo Parfet is a real estate professional, philanthropist, author, avid mountaineer, and naturalist. He is co-founder of Denali Venture Philanthropy (Denali), an impact investment organization focused on social change. He also helps lead DLP Real Estate Capital as Managing Director.
Parfet began his career as a Research Fellow at the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and moved to Wall Street, joining J.P. Morgan as a financial analyst. In 2012, he founded Iconic Development, a successful real estate development firm, earning the Inc. 500’s Fastest Growing Companies distinction that same year.
Parfet is an avid mountain climber and has earned his rank as one of about 85 people in the U.S. to have completed the Seven Summits. He authored a book, Die Trying: One Man’s Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits to share his experiences. He also contributed to the book, They Lived To Tell The Tale: True Stories of Modern Adventure.
Parfet believes in building a better world. He received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for completing more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service worldwide. He is a member of both the Explorer’s Club and Young Professionals Organization, and he is an advisory board member for the non-profit, Adventure Scientists.
Parfet has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Colorado State University, a Masters in Applied Economics from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He resides in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and two sons.
Follow Bo Parfet on Twitter