High-Class Problems

by Krishna on July 15, 2007

Nobody wants failure, but success brings its own challenges and problems. I don’t know if you have experienced this, but every time you cross a new milestone, there is some other new issue waiting to be resolved. It is not that you don’t want to succeed or you would be happier being a failure. It is simply that any success brings you into a different situation with its own issues.

Business situations are like that. If your company is not doing well, then you are constantly worried about paying the bills, keeping employees onboard and getting more funding to keep afloat. But if you are growing, then the previous problems go away, but are replaced by new issues. You are happy that you don’t have to worry about money, but you are still fighting with problems.

I have heard these situations referred to as “high-class problems”. The reason why they are called so is that they only occur when you have encountered some success and taken care of problems mostly associated with achieving that success. And usually these problems fall under the “we will cross that bridge when we get there” category.

Here are some examples of high-class problems when a business becomes “too” successful:

  • Needing more people than you are actually able to hire.
  • Needing more servers and hardware than you are able to buy or deploy quickly enough.
  • Too many users with more special requirements than you have the ability to address.
  • Conflicts between newly-joined and older employees about strategy, direction and tactics.
  • Insufficient processes to handle new needs.

Why do people and businesses land in such situations?

  1. They don’t have time to think about these problems: When a business is struggling, the owners are anxious about how they will release the product or make their next sale. The most important thing at this moment is working hard to make things happen. Even if people think about some issues, they are usually analyzed in the most elementary way.
  2. They don’t think they will succeed: At times, success seems like a pipe dream. You have done your best and worked really hard, but nothing seems to happen. Then although sales starts picking up, you don’t really believe it for a long time until you finally realize that the success is here to stay. Most people are internally very pessimistic and invariably believe in Murphy's Law.
  3. Success hits them out of the blue: Sometimes a business is on a slow growth strategy when suddenly they hit a really good prospect. Sales may double or triple and the organization is totally unprepared to handle the situation on any front.

Some of these problems can be fixed easily enough if you pay attention to them. In fact, the very fact that a business is successful allows you to spend money to solve some of these issues. Problems around human resource interaction and management are more tricky, and they need more time and thought. Using money to resolve a time allocation problem and vice versa can be harmful in these cases.

Other problems can be very difficult to cope with. For example, fulfilling a very large sales order may be impossible for the company and you may lose a valuable customer and a great opportunity to grow the business. Some issues do not manifest themselves immediately. Problems with processes are usually realized after something bad happens.

Can one be prepared for such situations? Theoretically, of course, you can. Try to predict the possible success scenarios and plan to handle them. Unless something extraordinary happens, you should be well placed.

Practically, most people find it difficult. Planning for success takes a lot of vision and optimism. It is very easy to get frustrated and dragged down by the inevitable troughs and setbacks in business. You don’t want to tempt fate by thinking of success. Try asking a student how they plan to reduce their taxes when they get a job and you will probably get the blankest stare you have ever encountered.

The other problem is that success changes some people to raving optimists. At this point, success has spoiled them so much that they think they can handle all the new problems using old techniques and it just doesn’t work. When you are successful, you cannot afford to rest on your laurels. The new situation demands new thinking and you will have to work just as hard as, if not more than, you did before.

A final point: Businesses or people who have not experienced the success may find the problems of the successful ironic and funny. They aren’t, actually. If left unresolved, the problems during success have a way of destroying what has already been created. For those who encounter them, they are definitely not less serious than the problems before success.

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