Nobody Cares About The Solution. Everybody Cares About The Problem

Jordan Gross

Why identifying problems is the best place to start when building a business

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“Why do there have to be so many options?!” we moaned.

“It’s going to take us longer to choose what to eat than it’s actually going to take to eat the food itself!”

That was the moment. That was the one complaint, the one pain point it took for us to decide that there had to be a better way.

As we sat on our beer stained couch one lazy, brisk Chicago afternoon, my friends and I were steadfast in our decision to not leave the house and order in all of our meals, a common occurrence on a dreary football Sunday.

We opened up our laptops and were immediately overwhelmed by the array of choices we had in first choosing the service we were going to use! Do we pick GrubHub, Uber Eats, or Postmates?

We decided on GrubHub and then buried our heads in our hands again when we realized we had to first choose a cuisine, then a restaurant, and then finally the dish we wanted.

The whole process for the five of us took 27 minutes. It took us about six to inhale our meals. Our hypothesis was more than correct.

The next day we walked through the doors of our Business Strategy class and were struck by the lesson of the day:

“Navigating Market Inefficiencies and How to Compensate”

After 90 minutes of case studies, lecture, and group discussion, our entrepreneurial-minded business school professor closed by saying that if there is something in the market you wish to fix and nobody out there is doing it, go and do it yourself.

So, that is what we did. The following is a formula for how we turned a burden into an idea, and how we brought an idea to monetary fruition. But it wasn’t just us who got our start this way. There are so many companies out there that began exactly as we did: by discovering a problem and needing to find an optimal solution.

1. Find Something That Pains You

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What drives you crazy?

What can you just not understand?

Why is something the way that it is?

Why isn’t it better?

Ask yourself these questions to identify the problem you are going to solve when starting a business. For us, it was the complexity and time in the food delivery service market. Each time we ordered food, it was a painstakingly long process, so we decided to fix it.

Entrepreneur Peter Rahal wanted pro-paleo food and snacks after his CrossFit workouts. But, there were none. So, he decided to make his own. Five years later, his company RXBAR was sold to Kellogg’s for $600 million. To find an idea, find something that pains you.

2. Make Sure It Also Pains Other People

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Finding something that bothers you is a great start, but if it does not bother other people as well, then you don’t exactly have a business. Just because I don’t like when people pronounce it “Chipolte” rather than “Chipotle” does not mean everybody else feels the same! No business there!

My friends and I created a five question mini-survey and distributed it to the 75 students in our business program, asking about average order time and overall delivery experience satisfaction. We learned that we were not the only ones who wanted something more out of food delivery.

Navy Seal Randy Hetrick became bored of his mundane routine while he was deployed, he threw a jujitsu belt over a door and started doing pull-ups.

He thought it was great, but did other exercisers without access to a gym have the same problem?

Randy showed the idea to his Seal team and then other Seal members around the world, and pretty soon he created TRX bands, a $50 million fitness company.

Make sure your personal pain is shared by other people.

3. Find The Right Guide

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I was fortunate enough to have already been doing some work with a startup founder a few years older in the food delivery space. I told him that I would continue to work with him for free if he would help us get our endeavor off the ground. He agreed, and I can honestly say we would not have known the nitty gritty details of starting a business without him.

Michael Bloomberg bumped into a guy when he interviewed to become a trader at a firm called Salomon Brothers & Hutzler. The man he bumped into was William R. Salomon, and Bloomberg attributes his success to the way this man led by example and guided him through the process of becoming a businessman and an even better human being. Bloomberg used this wisdom to create one of the largest companies and become one of the wealthiest men on the planet.

Even Bloomberg needed to find a guide. Make sure you do the same.

4. Test a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

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What is the most basic and simplest form of the idea that we can put in front of potential customers to gain valuable insights?

With our food delivery company, we made an absurdly simple email campaign with 30 emails we had from our classmates. Our MVP was a one-option food delivery service where we told you exactly what we were making with a detailed ingredients list and nutritional information, and the only choice the consumer had to make was “meal” or “no meal.”

We gathered enough ingredients for the people who replied, “meal” to the email, and I cooked 20 meals for our first order. We charged people on Venmo and then asked for feedback. This dropped average order time to about one minute rather than the 27 it took us that Sunday.

When Alli Webb took a few handfuls of supplies over to her friends’ house and started blow-drying their hair, she became better and better at it. Soon these simple and enjoyable interactions and experiences testing her concept grew into a $70 million company known as DryBar.

Start small. Build fast. And test to see if your MVP gains traction.

Move Forward If It Makes Sense

Our company, Feed My Mates, continued to grow. We continued to use customer comments and requests to cater toward what they wanted, and we were soon cooking 50 meals a week out of my apartment in downtown Chicago.

Starting a business and coming up with an idea that you think will spread and stick is an exciting process. But, unless there is a need and a target audience, all the work and effort you put into an idea with no proof will be futile. Ensure your idea is going to have customers, and build a business that actually solves a problem. At the end of the day, as much as you want to grow a business out of desire, there will be nothing that builds a business better and faster than need.

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Reimagining Personal Development

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