Many years ago, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, my wife was lounging on our patio quietly working her way through the crossword in the newspaper. The lovely lady who worked for us at the time looked over her shoulder and asked her what she was doing. “Just solving this little grid of problems” my wife replied. Anna then asked the killer question “Aren’t there enough problems in the world for you to solve?"
Start a business to solve a problem
I always think of this little memory when considering Number 1 in my list of tough questions that you must answer if you are starting your own business - “What problem does your business solve?” Wherever you are and whatever your expertise and experience, there is no shortage of problems to solve. The challenge for any entrepreneur is how to find and choose a problem that provides the foundation for a great business.
Problem is a very wide playing field
You first need to understand that problem in this context has the widest possible definition.
Problems can include:
Choices, choices, choices
Once you think like this, the list of problems becomes endless. How to start your own business? becomes How do you choose the right problem for your business to tackle? The best way to structure your thinking is to answer another bunch of hard questions (sorry!):
Be careful - a problem does not guarantee a market
Assuming a market exists just because you have found a problem is one of the most common mistakes I see with start ups. Even very big problems may not lead to a clear and addressable market. To start your own business your solution needs to be simple enough and cheap enough to persuade people to solve a problem they have lived with all their lives.
B2B companies often define their market by the measurable benefits their product delivers. The logic is undeniable but unfortunately logic and buying decisions have only a tenuous relationship. Many solutions which guarantee reduced costs or faster time to market or similar never find a market because the business owner has assumed people will buy on the basis of clear benefits. Well defined benefits are great to have but they are not enough to guarantee success.
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable."
Kenny Fraser is the Director of Sunstone Communication and a personal investor in startups.