Many successful businesses are started when the founder encounters a problem, and then embarks on a mission to find a solution. As we continue to increasingly produce, process, and consume information at a faster pace, the need to do it more effectively, efficiently and economically grows. This is a good thing for entrepreneurs, as it presents evolving opportunities to be innovative and find solutions.
The process of finding a solution will be frustrating, exhausting and can be the biggest learning experience for any entrepreneur. But the outcome can be life changing, and totally worth all the blood, sweat and tears.
Before you embark on this life-changing mission you must analyse the problem you’ve captured, and assess it objectively, ensuring that the solution is clearly linked to the problem, and the solution resolves that specific problem. Hiten Shah’s blog in Hitenism, Create products that people love by validating your idea first says – “Ideas are just a description of the solution to a problem. Converting your idea to a problem hypothesis enables you to stay focused on validating the idea instead of building the solution.
You don’t want to get stuck creating a solution and then searching for the problem that it solves. This situation is most common when people decide to solve a problem that they have themselves.” You have to carry out your market research to ensure that other people also share your problem.
“When creating a problem hypothesis start by describing the group of people you are targeting and what problem you think they have.”
“I find out what the world needs. Then, I go ahead and invent It.” – Thomas Edison
Before you spend your hard earned cash validating your business idea, you should ask yourself the following questions:
Is this a problem that others face?
Does this problem have a solution?
Am I capable or know people who are capable of creating a solution?
Once you’ve positively answered these questions, you can use these pieces of insight to hopefully guide you on your journey.
Start by solving a genuine problem.
Sometimes we can get too focused and obsessed with our ideas. We believe that this idea is the ONE! When you have invested so much time in an idea it can be hard to be impartial. Ask yourself, is your problem only a problem for you or will it be universally beneficial?
Ask family and friends to test your product at its early stages, but don’t rely solely on their opinions because they may be reluctant to criticise. They also only represent a small proportion of your market, at most, and this won’t be extensive enough market research.
As entrepreneurs we can be very protective about our ideas. Once your idea has been developed to a secure stage, you should speak to potential customers you don’t know. Carry out actual product testing. Importantly you need to find out if your product is needed. Are potential customers willing to pay for it? If so, how much are they willing to pay. You can then make adjustments to your product and strategy in accordance to the feedback you receive.
Focus on customers
Currently, there is a crooked misconception amongst entrepreneurs that to be successful you need to secure investment, and grow your business as soon as possible. This goes against the whole concept of entrepreneurship. Investment is a good thing, but you must ensure that your business is positioned correctly to take advantage, and meet the demands of investors. Do not become dependent on outside investment in order to survive. Focus on your customers for long-term survival.
Diana Kander’s article in Forbes, Forget Silicon Valley: Focus On Customers, Not Investors says “your key to economic independence isn’t reliance on outside investors; it’s the creation of a customer base that believes in you and your company.
Be resilient but flexible In a previous blog, Essential Steps Before Starting a Business. I spoke about the personal qualities most successful business people have. Being resilient is one of them. Most successful business people have failed at some point in their career. The likelihood is that you will also fail at some point. Once you’re in business, problems will present themselves, and test your determination. You’re going to succeed and fail at certain challenges. Keep focused on your goal, and don’t be afraid to modify your plan and approach to achieve this.
Most importantly you must learn and develop from your mistakes. Learn to cope with rejection, and pick yourself up when you’ve been knocked down.
Be passionate about your business
It’s a lot easier, and enjoyable solving problems in an area you are passionate about. Those difficult periods become more of a challenge than a chore.
That infectious enthusiasm can sometimes be enough to promote, and sell your ideas to customers and investors. It will also keep you motivated to work those ridiculous, but necessary long hours in order to keep your ideas progressing, and ticking along.
Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston expressed a similar opinion in his 2013 MIT Commencement address, “The happiest and most successful people I know don’t just love what they do, they’re obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them. They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball: their eyes go a little crazy, the leash snaps and they go bounding off, plowing through whatever gets in the way.”