If you are like most people, you think about becoming an entrepreneur as some kind of fanciful dream. You go to work everyday but imagine yourself creating a company especially if you work for people that you feel are holding you back. But you don’t start a company. Why? Most people cite fear as the number reason but closely behind is that quite a few people don’t think they have the “magic bullet” idea that will set the world on fire. The flaw in that thinking is that you don’t need a crazy good idea. You just need to find a problem and tweak one thing that no once else is doing in that category or industry.
And its actually simple iteration or innovation that is needed, not crazy breakthrough innovation as most people would believe. It may be counter intuitive to think that just a simple few degrees of innovation would matter most but people are resistant to radical change. Most things that succeed in the marketplace are incremental innovations.
So many companies have tweaked an existing product or service to enter the marketplace and then improve or expand. Google did it with just better search. Chobani did it with Greek yogurt. DropBox did it with simple cloud storage of content. Ebay did it by providing a simple marketplace platform for buyers and sellers. None of these was lightening in a bottle. So, don’t think big. Look for the one small thing you could launch a company around that customers see as a problem. Here are some thought starters.
Focus on a niche. No matter the industry, there are a remarkable number of niches in that marketplace. Cosmetics? How about organic and green face wash? Toothpaste? How about toothpaste for kids with sensitive teeth? And it could go on and on. The key is to focus on a large industry, identify the sub-segment of the large customer group and start studying what they buy today. Examine the current products or services very closely and look for problems that people are tolerating. Slightly improve it and see if that can become the beginning of a company.
Innovate simply with a critical degree of difference. One way to innovate is to select an industry and look for a problem that most businesses are ignoring. Taxi’s ignored delivering a consistent service on a local/national scale and Uber stepped in. Petco ignored the Direct To Consumer trend for dog food and Chewy stepped in. Dollar Shave Club delivered a more inexpensive “standard” razor with a new subscription business model. The list here is rather long of companies who innovated just so slightly to give customers what they wanted. And that’s the key. It’s not about your innovation being critical; it’s what customers actually need.
Start lean but scale big. What I mean here is to start the company with a lean but current/future bent as regards technology and process. You can be a small startup but use the latest cloud ecommerce technology that would scale if you took off. Utilize Shopify early and if you are successful, the platform will allow you to scale. Use any type of lean technology or process that will allow you to scale easily. Don’t hire employees early on. Use freelancers or even remote employees until you can justify full time positions.
You don’t build a company, a team does. It’s hard for me to understand why so many “wannapreneurs” think they alone need to create a company. And yet they played on teams as children, traveled with others, perhaps did group projects in college and work on collaborative teams at work. The lone wolf entrepreneur is a rare breed. Better to surround yourself with a strong network and crazy good group of associates and peers, that if you united 3-4 of them, it would be the nucleus for an amazing team.
Right now, you are probably working remotely based on our situation regarding the coronavirus. Take some time and really think about what potential customers are struggling with in terms of problems. Also, don’t forget B2B. What are small and medium companies tolerating? Use online video to connect with people you have not talked to in a while, rebuild that network. It’s no coincidence that most companies are started coming out of chaos. Leverage your time well in our current scenario and perhaps you just might find a problem that is worth starting a company.