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How To Diagnose Chronic Pain Versus Acute Pain In Your Business

Written by: Frank Spevak, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Recently, I went through a total knee replacement. Not a lot of writing or communicating following the surgery. Lots of drugs, sleep, and rehab to mitigate the massive surgical feat of tearing the leg open and installing new metal parts using hammers, drills, and saws.

It was necessary to get the surgery because the chronic pain that had been building for a few years finally got to the point of acute pain and required some additional short-term pain to achieve long term relief.

This is also an analogy to many businesses and their owners. Every business has an employee, a process, a vendor, a manager, something that has been causing the business a lot of chronic pain. And every business tries to apply fixes, a shot of something, different assignments, a brace to assist.

In the end, many owners only move the real issue further out until it needs major surgery to correct.

Many founders who are still the president, can have a weak spot for an employee who was there in the beginning. That employee may be a bit quirky, but smart and resourceful. And it worked in the early days with little structure, growing new products, concentrating on getting the big product out the door.

But as companies grow, to run more efficiently, we install structure. We create more detailed plans. We start charting a direction for the company. And not everyone can adapt. They work independently with little guidance or oversight. We let them create. We can make accommodations for these employees because they are contributing.

Eventually, the contribution gets smaller, other employees and their work begin to suffer. That's when culture starts to degrade, and the acute pain starts to bring attention to the chronic pain that has been there all along. And surgery is the only solution.

One client still had the owner as president after 30 years of starting the company. The owner was very inventive from a product standpoint and not interested in running the business and relied on the GM to run the business. The problem was that one of the original employees still reported directly to the owner. The owner wasn't big on confrontation. None of us like it, but he avoided it. Eventually, the employee's life began to intrude on the work. His work started to lag. He was unreachable many times. He would work 36 hours straight and get on a call to the office while under the influence. He would phone other managers in the middle of the night.

This kept on for years. Eventually, at a leadership meeting, all of the managers demanded that something be done. It forced the hand of the owner. He didn't like. He tried to have further talks. He tried to limit access. All to no avail. The other managers' demands finally got to the boiling point. Surgery was needed. The employee was fired, given a severance, the rest of the company could then start to heal, work to repair the culture was underway. New, replacement employees started to make greater contributions to make up for the short-term loss. Chronic and acute pain are now things of the past.

Loyalty to your employees is necessary for them to feel they are needed and able to contribute. We want to reward those employees who were there in the lean years. But there always comes a point where loyalty to one over the loyalty to everyone else requires action.

Questions to help you diagnose pains in your business

What problem or issue has been with your company for more than 3 years? Look carefully, because it could be below the surface, swept under the rug so to speak. And be honest with yourself, every company has one, more likely 2 or 3.

After identifying the problem, ask yourself the following 2 questions:

  1. "If this problem was fixed right now, what would be the biggest impact on my business?"

  2. "If that problem isn't fixed, how much of my day is caught up in that problem? Or how much does this problem continue to cost me?"

Other related questions:

Are you avoiding the problem because there is something scary in addressing the problem? If so, what is it? Why is it scary? Once you identify the scary part, it becomes easier to address it.

What do you need to know that you don't know now about fixing the problem? Where might you find that information? What do you have to learn or analyze? What information and plan do you need to say "yes, this is worth the short-term pain because this is what we will get on the other side."

Eventually, you have to answer the following ‒ Is it worth it? Is it worth it to keep it the same? Is it worth it to fix it?

You can put off the surgery with a shot, or a brace, or therapy, but sooner or later you will need surgery.

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Frank Spevak, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Frank Spevak helps entrepreneurs improve productivity, increase profit, and achieve peace of mind for themselves and their business by evaluating their business operations, and maximizing brand and marketing opportunities.

It all started when Frank realized that street smarts and luck can carry you only so far. Formal education doesn't necessarily mean that you learn the lessons of running a successful business.

Frank's success comes from his passion for lifelong learning. That lifelong learning has helped him in the company after company, to build business strategies and innovation programs to take companies to the next level. Coming up through the ranks of sales and marketing developed a deeper understanding and the importance of creating a strong brand and comprehensive marketing programs to ensure success for the business and the owner.

Before running his own business, Frank was a senior executive and worked as Chief Marketing and Sales Officer of a successful multi-million-dollar technology manufacturing and distributing company in Minnesota. Nowadays you’ll find Frank writing, speaking, and riding around the country on his Harley-–all while coaching, serving clients, and providing practical and buzzword-free learning.



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