Why entrepreneurs should skip the quick fix

Husband and wife repairing broken table

Have you been lured into purchasing a product or service that promises to be a quick fix? It might be purchasing Instagram followers, dropping a dress-size, or writing a best selling business book in a weekend. While the offers are enticing, the reality is that quick fixes are a marketing tatic and usually do not work. In many cases, they actually make things worse.

Recently I developed a stye in my eye and was reminded of the allure of a quick fix. If you haven’t experienced a stye. it looks like a pimple or boil around your eye. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection or the blockage of an eyelash follicle. Although painful, the treatment is pretty simple – apply hot compresses on your eye several times per day for ten minutes. No pills, no ointment, no procedure. Easy, right?

Not so much. I was shocked at how badly I complied with the treatment. It turns out that finding ten minutes every couple of hours was incredibly inconvenient – especially when I was away from home. Given a choice, I would have selected a pharmaceutical solution over the hassle of warm compresses. In other words, I wanted a quick and easy fix!

Examples of Quick Fixes

We’re all busy (and impatient), which is why we look for quick fixes in our lives. You may have been lured into a quick fix by:

  • Reading The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, And Join the New Rich by Tim Ferris and being disappointed that you couldn’t run your business a half-day each week.
  • Going on a diet that claims you’ll lose 10 pounds in 10 days, then regaining the weight (and more).
  • Attending a weekend mindset workshop that guarantees a life-changing breakthrough, only to feel like a failure when you don’t meet the success criteria laid out by the leader (which usually includes signing up for a much more expensive program).

We can emerge from these quick fixes fatter, sicker, and less motivated than when we began. Yet we continue to look for quick fixes in our business and personal lives.

Why we choose quick fixes

If you gravitate toward quick fixes, you are not alone. In a study at the University College London, 52 participants went through a series of tests to determine whether a group of dots on a screen were moving left or right. The study showed that participants naturally chose the past of least resistance when it came to making decisions. In other words, humans are hard-wired to be lazy. (Source)

Why quick fixes fail

The problem with quick fixes is that they often create additional, unintended problems. A crash diet can cause lasting health issues such as kidney damage. A weekend workshop can leave your poorer and less motivated then before your investment.

In an article called Systems Thinking Tools: Fixes That Fail by John Gerber, he gives the following examples of quick fixes that don’t work:

  1. Putting out small forest fires actually is the cause of big fires (because there is more flammable material when it does burn).
  2. Widening a road to prevent accidents actually causes more accidents (because people drive faster).
  3. Saving money by not repairing a roof on a house actually costs more money (eventually).
  4. Borrowing money to pay the interest cost on loans (bad idea).

In each example, the quick fix ultimately created more problems than it solved.

By using a slow fix, you are making a choice to figure out the root cause of your problem – and the best way to solve it. In the dieting example above, a quick fix to your covid weight gain is a 10-day juice cleanse. But are you burning fat (your goal)? Or are you losing muscle or water weight (not ideal)?

 Is a Slow Fix better?

Here are three slow fixes that can help you get to the root cause of your business:

  1. Be more than a technician. Michael Gerber, in his book E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, describes why successful businesses need people in the roles of the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician. Look at how you’re spending your time and focus equally on all three roles. (See blog post Emyth Revisited: A Must Read for Solopreneurs for more information.)
  2. Create a SWOT Analysis. Look at your business in the context of the big picture by examining your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. See blog post SWOT Planning Tools for Solopreneurs for more information.)
  3. Focus on continuous improvement. Use the Japanese philosophy of “Kaizen” to make small improvements instead of huge changes. (See blog post Continuous Improvement for more information.)

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Why entrepreneurs should skip the quick fix
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