Starting a Company

Start With The Problem

Written by James Garvin for Gaebler Ventures

Too many entrepreneurs get excited about their feature rich products that they lose sight of the critical issue at hand. What is the problem?

Focusing on the problem allows entrepreneurs and companies to focus their activities around a central theme.

Start With The Problem

By studying your customer's problem and understanding how they currently try to solve it, you will be able to design a much more effective solution once you know and see how your product can fit into the lives of your customers and improve the solution for the problem at hand.

All too often you see companies and entrepreneurs touting the bells and whistles of their products and services, and while they may sound fancy, they don't address any one problem. Products that solve multiple problems at one time can often confuse customers who may have only one of the many problems that your product resolves, but are stuck paying for all of them. Consumers use a can opener to open a can, not a Swiss army knife. You use a watch to tell the time, not your cell phone. While Swiss-army knives have a can opening feature and our iPhones can tell time, these are not the primary functions that these products serve, nor the primary problems that they were built to solve.

Google was founded on the premise that they could solve the problem of finding relevant digital information online better than anyone else could. They didn't set-out to solve the problem of small businesses needing a better platform to improve targeted advertising based on key word searches online. They didn't set out to create a better free email system, or create free online software to compete with Microsoft. The one problem they set out to solve was the problem around finding relevant information online and in doing so, they built the world's best search engine. Google's products that have followed are simply add-ons to their core search engine.

The simplified power of one problem often baffles many entrepreneurs who get too caught up on building features, not problem solvers. Building good features is a necessity for solving a problem, but they are not by themselves the solution to solve a problem. The iPhones touch screen was not built to solve the problem of people having difficulty dialing numbers on a cell phone, it was a feature to enhance the customer experience of communicating and entertainment on their phones.

As you look to build your business and products, rather than focusing on your product and its features, focus on one customer problem. Once you have analyzed this one problem in depth and the current solutions available, go to the drawing board to see how you can design a better solution. Keep your solution focused on one problem and one problem only that you can solve better than anyone else. If you can accomplish this feat, you will find that creating loyal customers will become much easier as opposed to trying to push your feature rich widgets that don't address the core of the customer's problem.

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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