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3 ways successful startups solve consumers’ problems

(Business) Startups that succeed have some commonalities that can be duplicated at any sized new brand, or one looking to expand.





The secret ingredient to startup success

Starting and growing a business is easier now than ever. With a global, digital audience and a vast array of consumer needs, virtually any aspiring entrepreneur can identify and implement a brilliant new idea while pulling in legendary profits.

Although no secret strategy exists to guarantee one company’s success over another, a distinguishing factor of the most successful startups over the past few years has been their ability to solve problems. By identifying a point of pain in a consumer’s life and presenting a solution, these businesses have carved out niches for themselves in the marketplace that previously didn’t exist.

What is More Compelling to a Consumer: A Want or a Need?

Many entrepreneurs spend a great deal of time trying to decide what “next big thing” they can bring to the table. They think of products they already know and enjoy and believe they can create their own versions. However, they fail to consider whether the market for such an item is already saturated. The result is often a product that never gains the traction it needs.

The mistake centers on the faulty premise that most consumers are simply looking for “cool stuff” to buy. However, the sheer volume of available brands presents confusion and indecision among individuals who only have so much time and money to spend.

This is why the businesses with the best chance of succeeding are those that focus on the problems customers need solved rather than which products they might like to have. By focusing on needs currently not being met in the market, companies differentiate themselves from competitors and become heroes to their customers.

How to Identify the Problem You Want to Solve

Consumers face countless problems on a daily basis; how do you know which one your company could potentially solve? For some, identifying a need to meet is a no-brainer. Others may remain deep in thought for months or years before discovering their calling.

As you begin your business, consider ways you or your product could:

  • Save time. A gadget or service that creates a shortcut for the user is a valuable way to solve a problem in today’s busy society.
  • Save money. Combining two or more products into one, devising a less expensive way to produce an existing product, or otherwise helping consumers save resources makes a product a worthwhile proposition for potential buyers.
  • Perform a difficult task. Household appliances are a perfect example of ways entrepreneurs have helped consumers make their lives easier and more convenient. More modern examples include fitness applications and mobile point-of-sale systems, which make previously complicated record-keeping processes simple and instantaneous.

The key is to understand what is happening in the market – particularly in the industry your current or prospective business seeks to serve. Explore new technologies, developments, and philosophies to determine how you might harness them to address a problem.

Characteristics Successful Startup Products or Services Share

Among the many entrepreneurial ventures that have achieved a sustained foothold in their markets, several common factors exist. This is no coincidence; rather, these individuals have discovered and tapped into the power and multiple facets of problem solving.

Beyond simply unleashing products and services on customers, successful startups exhibit additional qualities:

  1. They reflect the passions of their inventors. To create a truly effective and attractive product, an inventor must identify with the needs and desires of those who would purchase it. Orchestrate an item you would (and do) use on a regular basis and – as sources often state – “you won’t work a day in your life.”
  2. They tackle a problem from a different angle. Standout startups don’t present the same solutions as their predecessors and contemporaries. If another company is already using your idea, consider what they haven’t considered. Look for where a need still isn’t being met and decide you’ll be the one to meet it.
  3. They add to what has already been done. Google, Microsoft, Nike, and other highly successful companies don’t rest on their laurels, and neither should small business owners. Continuing to push the boundaries of what can be accomplished in one’s industry is how good companies become great leaders.
  4. They keep what works and improve what doesn’t. Customer feedback, lackluster sales, and low profits should be a warning sign to entrepreneurs that something isn’t working. Although one product or sector of your business may be running swimmingly, continually look for where pruning or adjustments are needed to keep the company profitable.

Although the current marketplace offers unlimited potential for entrepreneurs, identifying where their expertise is most needed is crucial to lasting profitability and success. It is no longer enough to create a novelty item and hope it sells; products must detect a critical void and fill it.

By paying close attention to the pain points of potential customers, businesses unlock the power of problem solving in entrepreneurialism.

Which of your customers’ problems do you hope to solve?

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Business News

Leadership versus management: What’s the difference?

(Business News) The two terms, leadership and management, are often used interchangeably, but there are substantial differences; let’s explore them.



leadership Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Some people use the terms “leader” and “manager” interchangeably, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there is still a debate regarding their similarities or differences.

Is it merely a matter of preference, or are there cut and dry differences that define each term?

Ronald E. Riggio, professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, described what he felt to be the difference between the terms, noting the commonality in the distinction of “leadership” versus “management” was that leaders tend to engage in the “higher” functions of running an organization, while managers handle the more mundane tasks.

However, Riggio believes it is only a matter of semantics because successful and effective leaders and managers must do the same things. They must set the standard for followers and the organization, be willing to motivate and encourage, develop good working relationships with followers, be a positive role model, and motivate their team to achieve goals.

He states that there is a history explaining the difference between the two terms: business schools and “management” departments adopted the term “manager” because the prevailing view was that managers were in charge.

They were still seen as “professional workers with critical roles and responsibilities to help the organization succeed, but leadership was mostly not in the everyday vocabulary of management scholars.”

Leadership on the other hand, derived from organizational psychologists and sociologists who were interested in the various roles across all types of groups.

So, “leader” became the term to define someone who played a key role in “group decision making and setting direction and tone for the group. For psychologists, manager was a profession, not a key role in a group.”

When their research began to merge with business school settings, they brought the term “leadership” with them, but the terms continued to be used to mean different things.

The short answer, according to Riggio is no, not really; simply because leaders and managers need the same skills to be productive and respected.

This editorial was first published here in June of 2014.

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Business News

Does Raising Cane’s have the secret to combatting restaurant labor shortages?

(NEWS) Fried Chicken Franchise, Raising Cane’s, has turned to an unusual source of front-line employees during the labor shortage- Their executives!



White paper sign with black text reading "Help Wanted."

I wouldn’t call myself a fried chicken aficionado or anything, but since chains are designed to blow up everywhere, I have experienced Raising Cane’s.

I’m pretty sure the Cane’s sauce is just barbecue mixed with ranch, but hey, when you’ve got a good idea, keep with it.

In the further pursuit of good ideas, the company has resorted to an intriguing method of boosting staff in a world where the lowest paid among us are still steadily dying of Covid, and/or choosing to peace out of jobs that they don’t find worth the infection risk.

Via Nation Restaurant News: “This is obviously a very tough time, so it was a joint idea of everybody volunteering together to go out there and be recruiters, fry cooks and cashiers —whatever it takes,” said AJ Kumaran, co-CEO and chief operating officer for the Baton Rouge, La.-based quick-service company, from a restaurant in Las Vegas, where he had deployed himself.”

The goal of this volunteer mission, which involves 250 of the 500 executives deployed working directly in service roles, is to bolster locations until 10,000 new hires can be made in both existing locations and locations planned to open.

It’s obvious that this is a bandaid move – execs exist for good reason, and in terms of sheer numbers (not to mention location and salary changes), this is hardly tenable long-term. But I can say this as someone who’s gone from retail to office, and back (and then forth…and then back again) several times – if this doesn’t keep everyone at the corporate level humble, and much more mindful of employees’ needs, nothing will.

The fast-food world is notorious for wonky schedules only going up a day before the week begins, broken promises on hours (both over and under), horrendous pay, and little to no defense of employee dignity in the face of customers with rank dispositions. With the wave of strikes (Nabisco, John Deere, IATSE) making the news, and lack of hazard pay/brutal physical attacks over mask mandates still very fresh in workers’ minds, smart companies are hipping themselves to the fact that “low level” employee acquisition and retention needs to be much more than the ‘work here or starve’ tactics that have served since the beginning of decades of wage stagnation. The best way for that fact to stay front-of-mind is to go out and live the truths behind it.

In Raising Cane’s case, the company also announced that they’re upping wages at all locations — to the tune of an actually not totally insulting $2 per hour, resulting in a starting wage of $15 and a managerial wage of $18.

Ideally, paying people more to cook, clean, and customer service all in one job will actually attract people back to fast food work. Seriously consider the fact that the people cleaning fast-food toilets are the same people making the food that goes into your mouth. The additional fact is that it’s better for everyone’s health when they’re paid enough to care about what they’re doing and stay healthy themselves.

Of course, one does also need to consider how much inflation has affected the price of goods and housing since the ‘fight for $15’ began almost a decade ago in 2012. Now, raising wages closer to the end point of multiple goods still might not be enough!

AJ Kumaran continued, “The chicken prices are through the roof. Logistics are very hard. Shipping is difficult. Simple things cups and paper napkins — everything is in shortage right now. Some are overseas suppliers and others domestic suppliers. Just in poultry alone, we have taken significant inflation.”

That’s global disruption for ya.

It remains to be seen whether this plucky move can save Raising Cane’s dark meat, but I’m very pro regardless. Send more top-earning employees into the trenches! No more executives with 0 knowledge of how the sausage sandwich gets made.

No more leading from behind.

Why not? What are ya? Chicken?

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.



Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

This story was first published in November 2020.

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