Productivity Tips

Don't Solve a Problem You Don't Have

Written by James Garvin for Gaebler Ventures

Entrepreneurs have multiple problems that they must juggle each day to get them through to the next task, but some entrepreneurs get bogged down by problems that they don't have and distract them from focusing on alleviating current problems.

This article was inspired from the Southwest in-flight magazine I was reading last week that highlighted a pair of software entrepreneurs who's company failed.

Dont Solve A Problem You Dont Have

They were reflecting on the ups and downs of their venture and they both agreed that one of their primary faults were chasing problems that they did not need to solve. In this case, they had developed some IP around a software program that they were selling online and noticed a copycat version of the software being made in China and also sold online. At the time the founders noticed that a Chinese company was selling their same software that was patent protected, the founders decided to invest their time and resources to combating the Chinese firm to protect their IP.

You might be asking why this would be a problem? When the founders decided to spend their time and resources protecting their IP, they had bare minimum sales, even after launching various versions of the software. What the founders learned (and you should too) is that even though the company was able to stop the Chinese firm from selling their copycat version of the software, the company did not see any added sales coming to their firm. The Chinese company was also selling very few licenses of the software, and combined with the founders were not generating enough revenue for either firm to live off of. The moral of the story was that rather than fighting to protect their IP, the company founders should have been focusing on driving sales of the software and if the Chinese firm was stealing substantial business from their firm, should they have spent the time and resources to go protect their IP.

There are numerous examples of problems that firms chase that do not need to be solved, and not forgetting what we've learned about opportunity cost, the time you spend doing one activity removes you from spending that time doing something else. If you don't have subscribers to your newsletter yet, don't worry about writing a newsletter. Work on activities that will get customers to first sign up for your newsletter and then go and write it. While some may feel more at ease by knowing their newsletter has been written, it doesn't solve the problem of the fact that you have no subscribers.

Another common example of entrepreneurs seeking out solutions for problems in which they do not have is trying to raise venture capital. While networking and seeking advice from venture capitalists can never be done too early, focusing your time on raising capital rather than building your product and business can be a problem when done prematurely. Investors don't invest in ideas, they invest in tangible businesses that have proven that they can succeed with the bare minimum and provide a high degree of confidence that they can deliver even more with greater resources behind them. Prototypes are usually not built because of a lack of capital and rarely will investors provide an entrepreneur capital in order to go build a prototype.

As an entrepreneur, you must be focused on the given problem at hand, not chasing side problems that deter you from your core needs.

James Garvin began his education studying biotechnology. In recent years he has turned his interest in technology to helping two internet startup companies. The first business was an online personal financial network and the second was an e-marketing platform created to help entrepreneurs demo their web sites. Currently a student at University of California Davis, James is spending his summer incubating two new online businesses and writing about his entrepreneur experiences.

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