“Does one truly have to solve a problem or fill a need to have a successful business?”
A common adage perpetuated throughout the business world is that, in order to start a business, you’ll have to solve a problem or fill a need. You’ll find gurus, business publications, and even mentors asserting this common wisdom. It’s engraved into our subconscious.
No matter the industry your business is in, you can trust that it usually delivers one of the three tiers listed above. Your business will either solve a problem, create some sort of convenience, or create a perceived value.
Essentially, it follows this model: (Solve a Problem) <———> (Convenience) <———> (Create Value)
A business can certainly have all three tiers, and most top performing companies do. Solving someone’s problem can be seen as valuable, but that’s not exactly what I’m asserting here. Let’s dive in!
Solve a Problem
There’s no doubt about it: the most common business proposition model is a pitch to solve someone’s problem. If you do this, you’re sure to obtain plenty of cash flow. Here are a few examples of such problem-solving companies:
- Procter and Gamble. They not only solve your dirty clothes problem but will also keep your teeth white and your BO like coconut almond flowers!
- Grocery Stores. We all have to eat, so grocery stores are an amazing solution to our problem of access to food.
- Dealerships. We all need to get from point A to point B. Sure we could walk or ride a bike, but at some point traveling from city to city on foot is overwhelming and unnecessary for most of us.
- Apparel Brands. Unless you love the Adam and Eve special or the DIY cloth-fabrication process, I’m betting you’re pretty grateful someone has solved your clothing problem for you, hm?
If you want to solve a problem of the world or a business problem, you have your work cut out for you. In exchange of that, the reward can be astronomical. Steady income, longevity, and peace of mind.
However, as technology improves year after year, what if the problem you solve is no longer relevant? Example: “Company Too-Legit solves credit repair: once a client’s credit is repaired they do not typically have any more use of Too-Legit.” Obviously, the goal is to continually target individuals with bad credit, but what if in the near future they get rid of credit systems altogether? You’re faced with a major problem.
Solving a problem is not always the safest choice, though it’s preached like it is. How quickly have desktops become irrelevant and nearly drowned out by laptops and tablets?
In essence, every business will more than likely solve someone’s problem. It doesn’t, however, always have to be the focal point of your business for you to succeed.
Ahh, there’s just something about instant gratification when you’re craving a snack or a meal. Instant cravings, instant results. Here are a few examples of businesses of convenience:
- Convenience Stores. Right around the corner, it’s the kind of shop you don’t need to even wipe last night’s makeup off for…even if you’re paying more money for the same thing at the grocery store. It’s just too damn far, and you can’t go there in your PJs. Seriously, don’t do it.
- Fast Food. Hey, check this out: fast food is fast. Did you know? Instant gratification is the convenience of time well-spent on delicious-but-unhealthy food that you didn’t have to wait for.
- Telecommunication services. Writing a letter can still get the job done, but what if you can’t – like, totally! – wait to discuss with your besties the latest episode of The Walking Dead?
- Big Box Retailers. They’re the kings of convenience. Where else can you grab fries, change your oil, and grab your favorite video game all in the same place?
- Modern Technology. Social media has made it more convenient to connect with your loved ones and friends 24/7. Cell phones created an instant gratification with text messaging those crushes and bae. Tablets allowed for easy access to audiobooks, movies, and your favorite television shows. All extremely convenient alleys.
Convenience is instant gratification. You’ll be surprised at what you come up with just by taking some time to think about how your business can make someone’s life more convenient.
Whether we admit it or not, humans love instant gratification. This is why the model works. A person’s Happiness + Now = Steady revenue for you!
This final, and probably most ambiguous tier is the value tier. This tier is where the game changers dwell, the companies no one ever sees coming. They’re the kings of “let’s give them something they never had.”
- Starbucks. Did you ever imagine we would be paying $5 for a cup of coffee? We were just fine with our $1.10 coffee that we got every morning. What happened? Is that white mocha or that caffè macchiato that much better than the old stuff? With net revenues around 21.3 billion last year, I think it might just be. Starbucks is the master of making you feel like a community. Not only do you look cute and ritzy with your cup, but you get to be all cozy and warm in their ambiance.
- Apple. Though Apple can be in the convenience tier as well, the company gave us something we never had. We were perfectly fine with our razors, blackberries, and LG’s. What happened? Facetime, iMessage, fluidity and design, and software that marriages its hardware happened. Like Starbucks, it built a community. It brought people together. Their focus is not solving your problem to communicate to your network, but to create an experience while using their device! A certain happiness is attached to your phone every time you use it even if you don’t realize consciously.
- Hobby Lobby. Surprised? Well, this arts and crafts chain doesn’t solve a problem, but it does generate an average of 3.3 billion annually. Where else could you get a ceramic purple elephant with a bible scripture on it?
- Amazon. The king itself! Originally starting off selling just books, the online giant has evolved into selling just about anything you can think of. However, the game changer was amazon prime. Before Amazon, there was no such thing as two-day shipping. Ships in 3 to 5 business days was the norm. $99 a year to have your items in your hands in just two days? This model was executed so perfectly, many retailers have taken notice and are coming up with their own version of it.
Although creating a value model for your business is the most difficult and unpredictable tier, its fruit is the sweetest. We all grin ear to ear when our favorite person sends us a text without every really thinking about how the device we’re holding is allowing this happen. Value creating will both the hardest and best tier you could exist in as an entrepreneur.
The world is diverse, with over 7 billion humans walking the earth. This should be more the reason to give it all your might and expand your mind in this tier. Surely you can make someone’s day. Give them something they never had!
I want to encourage every present and future entrepreneur and business owner to expand their minds into those other tiers. Focusing on a problem is fine, but what about making someone’s life more convenient, creating a sense of belonging and happiness? Make your business and its product a place where people can be themselves.
Sounds simplistic? Do me a favor, pull out a notebook and write down every choice you made for one day. For example, when you turn on your computer, write what brand of computer you have. What kind of coffee or liquid is your first choice? What snacks and foods did you consume throughout the day? What kind music did you listen to?
Do this for one full day and I know that you’ll realize something you aren’t aware of. Each choice you make creates your day for you. From the coffee or drink you choose upon waking up, to the snacks and foods you consume, to the music you’re jamming to, they all unconsciously create joy. Take them all away and you’ll witness a side of you that you didn’t even know you had.
Refusing to be open-minded and not giving all the tiers a shot is like arguing with a person who doesn’t read books but tries to argue their point.
Let me know how your day of choice-watching goes and what you’ve discovered!