Lesson 6 - Solutions

HOW WILL YOU SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS?

Now you're hopefully getting clearer on the problems you're addressing, it's time to think of how you're going to solve them.

Bear in mind it's rare for Plan A to be the one that works (unless you're one of the lucky few), so the important thing here is to start somewhere – and sooner rather than later.

At this stage coming up with solutions isn't so much about building the perfect (or even right) product or service, but more about working out whether you're on the right track. Most people start off thinking up very complex solutions. Don't fall into the same trap. Now's the time to put something out there fast.


POWER UP 💪

Watch Sanderson Jone's message from Summercamp, Just start starting things (2 min)

TIME KILLS THE SENSORS

Most of the successful projects we've launched over the years have been those where we've gone from idea to action fast. For instance we conceived and launched our new online community in just 24 hours.

Whether it's more features for a new app or more offerings as part of their service, there's a tendency for first time entrepreneurs to over complicate by adding too much to their first solution and taking too long to launch something. We'd advise against this for several reasons:

  1. It can take a lot of time and money to make something complex
  2. There's a higher risk of things going wrong
  3. If it isn't simple there's a big chance you'll confuse customers
  4. You'll be more attached to the solution and more likely to give up if it doesn't work

So don't try to over engineer your first solution and instead try to reverse engineer the problem. Break the problem down and identify the simplest thing you can build to get feedback on your idea.

Don't build the thing, now's the time to experiment..

FAKE IT BEFORE YOU MAKE IT

If you're thinking of opening a flower shop or franchising a McDonalds defining the right solution may not be such a big problem. These are known businesses and so the product and customer need is well defined. Making businesses like these work is mainly about good marketing and sales.

However, if you've got an innovative idea then you'll need to follow a different plan. One that requires a bit more risk-taking and experimentation.

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face" Mike Tyson

Things won't always go to plan, so it's important to be aware of this. It's about getting comfortable with uncertainty, and learning from any setbacks you have, not taking them to heart.

IT'S ALL ABOUT LEARNING

At this stage don't worry too much about getting customers and growing revenue, but focus on learning. Really understand the problems you're solving and who you're solving them for (more on this in the next lesson).

If you started this course with a business idea in mind you've probably certain assumptions about your customers and your solution. However, based on the problem you defined in Lesson 5 we want you instead to think of the simplest and cheapest solution that helps test your assumptions.

How could you begin to solve the problem without having to spend loads of time and money on it? What could you do next week?


POWER UP 💪

Read our post 11 ridiculously easy ways to thingify your thoughts (3 min).

HELPING HAND

Now's the time to get creative! You need to embrace the constraints of limited time and money to see how you can approach the problem in different ways. This is good practice for startup life since time and money are luxuries you rarely have.

We suggest you try brainstorming lots of different solutions. Don't get too caught up with trying to find the best one, just spend some time getting lots of ideas down on post-it notes (no matter how crazy they sound). Then pick the best one to use for this week's exercise.

Here are examples of some solutions to get you thinking:

1) Build a landing page

While this doesn't sound quite like a solution to a problem it's a great way for you to get in touch with potential customers. The page should explain the problem your tackling and how your potential solution will address it. You should then ask people to sign up to be the first to use that solution. Try using Squarespace or Strikingly to get a quick page up. We took this approach for our mountainside retreat Alptitude last year and had more than 100 applications for only 25 spaces before we'd even confirmed the event.

2) Create a demo video

If it's difficult to describe your solution in words then try creating a simple demo video. This approach is similar to the previous one but in this case you tell the story of the problem and the solution in a more engaging way. This is exactly what Dropbox did before they'd even built their product.

3) Build a pop-up

This approach is particularly useful for business ideas that require premises such as restaurants or physical stores. You could look for empty premises or locations with spare space you could use. A previous student on our Home School had a grand vision to build a play zone for adults. He started testing the idea by putting a ball pit in his office and running nerf gun sessions. Since then he's been scaling up with bigger versions of the concept in bigger spaces.

4) Play Wizard of Oz

Rather than build out any technology, employ staff or invest in too much infrastructure you could use existing tools and a bit of manual effort to replicate the final solution. This is the tactic followed by the founder of Zappos when he was working out whether people would buy shoes online. He basically posted pictures of shoes on his website and when anybody ordered them he'd buy them from a local store and then mail them to the customer. He didn't make any money but he learned a lot.

While these approaches might not make you any money they will help you test out your idea and connect you with customers. Fake it before you make it and you'll reduce the risk of building the wrong thing.

NOW IT'S OVER TO YOU!

So, get back to your worksheet and write down the first solution you could try out to address the problem from lesson 5. Remember this is just your Plan A – most likely it will evolve once you've got feedback from real customers:

For The Chirpy Business School we'd write this...

Share your solution in the comments below or ask any questions if you're stuck trying come up with an idea.

WHAT'S NEXT?

The penultimate lesson will be about your potential customers – the early adopters of your product or service.

If you haven't downloaded the course materials yet then how have you go this far?!? If you lost them the download them here

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