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Solve a problem

People I read, work with, overhear, listen to, casually encounter (etc) seem to fall into roughly three camps regarding the current economy’s job situation:

  • The President (Governor, Mayor, City, County, State, whatever) should give me a job or create one for me.
  • The President (etc) should stay out of it and let natural market forces fix the economy – letting the chips falls where they may.
  • The President (etc) has little or no power over my personal economy. Only I can determine and exert any control over its condition.

As you might guess, I tend to fall in the third camp. Mostly, I have no patience for the interminable (and often pointless) wait required for options one and two. The rest comes from personal experience.

Rather than try to move you to another camp and thus change your worldview (a rather impossible task not unlike teaching a pig to sing), I’m just going to focus today’s yammering on those in the “I can determine and exert control” camp (the last one on the list).

The entrepreneurs among you will understand that. The rest, maybe you could consider it an interim solution to use until economy changes and creates a situation that fits your worldview.

The solution is really kinda simple: Solve the biggest, toughest problem you can find.

But don’t just solve it and keep moving. Solve it madly. Passionately. Do so as if you are the only one with enough lead (and expertise) to neutralize the Kryptonite that weakens Superman.

The natural question

The next natural question you might ask is going to be “So…what problem should I solve?”

That’s the hard part, of course. On the other hand, how should I know what the big hairy audacious must-solve-problem is in your business?

In some businesses, I could toss some suggestions out there, but I don’t claim to be Mister Wizard of your-market.

Look at it this way… If I can point it out from afar (and without your experience in the market), I’d be surprised. Why? Because it shouldn’t be quite so obvious for a newbie in your market to spot the all-encompassing, why-didn’t-we-think-of-that solution to the mega-problem you somehow managed to ignore.

On the other hand, maybe you’re too close. Maybe you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Oh yeah, those customers of yours

Those customer type folks can help you with that. What, you say? Ask CUSTOMERS? Yes, I know. Sacrilege, but try it anyhow.

Here are some questions that might help you shine a light on the problem you need to solve.

  • What are we making too difficult?
  • What part of your business would be (wildly?) profitable if you could just get past one challenge?
  • What is that challenge?
  • Is there an area of your business that we aren’t doing anything to help you with? What challenges you in that division?
  • If you could knock off one big-ticket-achievement that would make you a superstar in your market (or at your company), what would it be? What part(s) of that achievement do you think are beyond your reach? What if they weren’t (what you think is) beyond your abilities or resources?


Finally, don’t forget that customers quite often get stuck in that forest and trees situation as well.

They need help seeing that next big thing, or seeing past their current reality and into a whole different market or business. It’s common for me to find a business that has products or services that (could) reach well beyond their current market and existing customer base, they simply never considered those others. Likewise to find a business that has a business buried inside of it that’s just aching to get out and grow on its own.

Case in point: 3 million people didn’t write Apple and ask them to design the iPad. Likewise, Apple didn’t come up with the iPad by going to Best Buy and asking themselves what was missing from the shelves. They had to think hard about the retail customer they continually please. Just happened to turn out that the business customer likes it too.

What can you create that your customers never even considered, yet can’t do without? Thinking hard and asking way too many “What if” and “Why cant we” questions of yourselves, your market and your customers can yield the kind of answers that you might not trip over any other way. What would the leader in your market do?

And then…solve the problem(s) you find like nobody’s business.

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