One of my favorite business gurus, Ash Maurya, uses the phrase
“Love the problem, not your solution.”
What he means is that as an entrepreneur the key to success is to solving problems, not the solution itself. Entrepreneurs are great at identifying problems (like the traditional taxi business provides horrible service at high cost) and coming up with solutions in the form of new businesses, and new business models (like…Uber).
But entrepreneurs are also often guilty of falling in love with their solution. Here’s what that means.
When I mentor an entrepreneur or new small business owner, I ask them first, “What problem are you solving? (the simple business model)” and “Who are you solving this problem for? (Who – and how many – and how will you reach them)” and finally, “Do they care? (Are they willing to pay you for your solution?)” These are critical questions that each small business owner must be prepared to answer quickly and succinctly and with real data.
To those three questions, I’ve started to ask a fourth. “If someone brings you an obviously better solution – all or in part – would you rip up your way of doing things and incorporate the new solution?” It’s very easy to become overly focused on the elegant solution you have come up with, and not the critical problem that your customers need fixed. It’s also easy to become more and more inflexible, especially after investing hundreds of hours to relentlessly pursue a desired solution. This happens to the detriment of the business model, growth, profitability, and eventually, the entire potential success of the company.
So what to do? Try the following and make it part of your daily or weekly self-examination:
- State the problem you are solving clearly and differently from the proposed solution. Problems are problems (for your customers), and solutions are solutions (and can change)
- State your solution as a proposal. A fluid process that may or may not solve the problem and therefore needs to be constantly tested and evaluated.
If you find yourself saying, “it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’m glad we looked at the data and modified our approach.” Then you are well on the way to loving the problem and being open to change and better solutions.
You are an entrepreneur creating a business to solve a problem. The solution is merely a tool, not the goal.
If you have an idea to solve a problem and would like to bounce it off someone who’s been there, done that, schedule a free mentoring session with one of the Greater Phoenix SCORE mentors.
About the Author:
Andy Beran is the immediate Past President of Greater Phoenix SCORE and has been a mentor since 2008. Andy currently owns a medical transport company in the Phoenix area. Since purchasing the company in 2010, he returned the business to consistent profitability and growth. During his extensive corporate career, Andy held various management positions at a leading Fortune 50 high technology research, development and manufacturing company. His positions included Group Controller and Director of Strategic Planning. He was a proven expert in the areas of Strategic Planning, Mergers and Acquisitions, Strategic Alliances, New Business Development, Operations and Capacity Planning, Finance & Budgeting and ROI / Productivity. Learn more about Andy here.