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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.

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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

Keep your company’s operations lean by following these proven strategies

(BUSINESS) Keeping your operations lean means more than saving money, it means accomplishing more in less time.

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The past two years have been challenging, not just economically, but also politically and socially as well. While it would be nice to think that things are looking up, in reality, the problems never end. Taking a minimalist approach to your business, AKA keeping it lean, can help you weather the future to be more successful.

Here are some tips to help you trim the fat without putting profits above people.

Automate processes

Artificial intelligence frees up human resources. AI can manage many routine elements of your business, giving your team time to focus on important tasks that can’t be delegated to machines. This challenges your top performers to function at higher levels, which can only benefit your business.

Consider remote working

Whether you rent or own your property, it’s expensive to keep an office open. As we learned in the pandemic, many jobs can be done just as effectively from home as the workplace. Going remote can save you money, even if you help your team outfit their home office for safety and efficiency.

In today’s world, many are opting to completely shutter office doors, but you may be able to save money by using less space or renting out some of your office space.

Review your systems to find the fat

As your business grows (or downsizes), your systems need to change to fit how you work. Are there places where you can save money? If you’re ordering more, you may be able to ask vendors for discounts. Look for ways to bring down costs.

Talk to your team about where their workflow suffers and find solutions. An annual review through your budget with an eye on saving money can help you find those wasted dollars.

Find the balance

Operating lean doesn’t mean just saving money. It can also mean that you look at your time when deciding to pay for services. The point is to be as efficient as possible with your resources and systems, while maintaining customer service and safety. When you operate in a lean way, it sets your business up for success.

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Business News

How to apply to be on a Board of Directors

(BUSINESS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Average age of successful startup founders is 45, but stop stereotyping

(BUSINESS) Our culture glorifies (yet condemns?) startup founders as rich 20-somethings in hoodies, but some are a totally different type.

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There’s a common misconception that startups are riddled with semi-nerdy, 20-something white dudes who do nothing but sip Nitro Brews and walk around the open office showing off the hoodie they wore yesterday. It turns out that it’s extremely rare that startup offices resemble The Social Network.

However, the academic backdrop for the real social network story (AKA Harvard), produced statistics that will serve to put the aforementioned misconception to rest. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of people who founded the highest-growth startups is 45. Say what?! A full-fledged adult?!

In fact, aside from the age category of 60 and over, ages 29 and younger were the smallest group of founders that are responsible for heading the highest-growth startups. I guess you can accomplish a lot when you’re not riding around the office on a scooter all day.

The study also found that older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. The probability of extreme startup success rises with age, at least until the late 50s. It was found that work experience plays an important role.

Many will argue, “Well, what about someone like Steve Jobs?” You could easily argue right back that it took Jobs until the age of 52 to create Apple’s most profitable product – the iPhone.

The study continues to answer questions like, why do Venture Capitalist investors bet on young founders? This goes back to the misconception at the start, and there’s a notion that youth is the key for successful entrepreneurship. Wrong.

There is also the idea that younger entrepreneurs are likely working with less financial options, so it may be common for them to take something from a VC at a lower price. As a result, they could be viewed as more of a bargain than older founders.

“The next step for researchers is to explore what exactly explains the advantage of middle-aged founders,” writes Pierre Azoulay, et al. “For example, is it due to greater access to financial resources, deeper social networks, or certain forms of experience? In the meantime, it appears that advancing age is a powerful feature, not a bug, for starting the most successful firms.”

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