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Don’t misunderstand the title of this entry – I’m talking about you, the business owner, the start-up entrepreneur, the employee. What Problem Does Your Business Solve For You?
See, at its heart, every business exists to solve problems.
We may choose to communicate the features and benefits of our business and what it sells, but it’s a fact that buyers don’t care what we sell until they understand how doing business with us can solve their problems.
So what does that have to do with you and your problems?
I would like to propose an idea that’s not talked about enough; until you can fully understand the problems your business solves for you and how your business (your job) serves your, life you may struggle to understand how to best build the lasting customer relationships and internal culture you’ll need to grow a thriving business.
Now I know this seems a bit dramatic but ask yourself this question. What problem were you trying to solve when you started your business?
This is a harder question than it appears and this is not the same question as “what’s your purpose in life?”
Let me illustrate.
At first pass, many people would answer the “problem” question with things like, “it puts a roof over my head,” or “it gives me the freedom to make my own choices,” or even things like “it allows me to use my gifts.”
Nothing wrong with any of those answers, but they feel a little more like features and benefits, but nowhere near the truth.
So here’s where it gets tough.
I’ve come to realize that the problem I was trying to solve when I first started my business was low self-esteem.
I certainly didn’t know this at the time, but in many ways, in hindsight at least, it has and continues to color my decisions and daily actions.
See, I never really did that well in the traditional metric of school. I loved learning, had an insatiable curiosity, but “school” didn’t fit how I learned.
I got through high school but never quite finished college. I attended for four years and turned up about 30 hours short of any kind of degree.
I wanted to keep moving, keep pace with my peers, and at the time I was madly in love with a woman who has now tolerated me in marriage for over three decades.
I just took the next step in life, but lacking a degree I never quite felt worthy of or even capable of chasing the traditional career path. So I hid out for a while until I stumbled on the notion of starting my own business.
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I did know I would never have to interview with anyone in order to land the job and that solved a problem for me. Just how long that element lived with me is hard to tell, but I can clearly point the finger at this dynamic in some of the ruts and stalls I’ve experienced in my business over the years.
Now, it’s funny but people often associate starting a business with a large dollop of confidence and self-esteem, but it’s probably one of the greatest misperceptions about entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs often use their business as a mask or a stage for some sort of lack.
That’s not really the point I’m trying to make, but hopefully, it helps illustrate the fact that once I realized that the real problem my business solved initially was to help me deal with my own issues, I could start to see a pattern of decisions that were based in feeding that solution rather than in my own personal or professional growth.
This is the kind of thing that leads us to take a client we know is wrong for us. This is what leads us to lower our prices and undermine our value. This is what keeps us doing what we’ve always done, even if it clearly no longer serves. (And by the way, this applies to any employee out there as surely as it does to a business owner.)
So let me ask you again – Why did you start your business, what problem were you really trying to solve? Does solving that problem feed your growth or keep you in a pattern of something akin to treading water?
Ever feel stuck? Then look for the clues to answer this question.
You cannot reframe the problem your business solves for you until you understand it and define it. Once you gain clarity around this idea you can reimagine your relationship with your business. You can take charge of the problem your business needs to solve for you and you can perhaps finally focus on uncovering and solving the problems that can bring your customers and everyone else who has a relationship with your business the greatest value.
You can do less and be more.
You can develop the confidence to say no, to narrow your focus to only those you are meant to serve, to create far greater impact than you ever imagined.