How solving people's problems builds awesome business ideas
Solve people's problems, start a business
All of us come across problems every day that frustrate or annoy us: things take too long to do, processes are overly complex, we can’t find the right information or something isn’t well explained.
These are all opportunities that you can turn into business ideas. We all like convenience, and as we become more time and attention starved, anything that makes our lives or work easier, simpler and more efficient can become the basis of a successful business.
The technique here is to be in the right frame of mind and have the tools at your disposal to capture these problems as they occur so that you can identify solutions and develop them into ideas. This business guide will show you how.
Quick, easy and innovative solutions to issues will create a client base of customers happy to spend money on things that make their lives easier.
In this article I'll discuss:
- How to develop the right frame of mind to record your activities
- Prepare yourself to track what you do through the day / week
- Notice and note down potential problems
- Review for potential business ideas
- Revise, think about and shortlist your ideas
- Noticing and noting down issues and problems
- Reviewing your list for good business ideas
- Making a shortlist of ideas for investigation
- Further resources
Benefits to you are:
- Changing your perspective so that you notice potential problems
- Being aware of and tracking the things that cause difficulties
- Creating business ideas that solve those issues and can benefit people
- Awareness of the issues that you and others face that may have a business solution
- Creation of good ideas for investigation
- Understanding what you need to do next
When you’re using this business tool, aim to be:
- Aware of your thoughts and feelings
Step 1 – Develop the right frame of mind to record your activities
Having the right frame of mind is vital to capturing issues effectively, this means:
- Starting from the right place
- Being aware of your thought processes
- Having a calm, relaxed emotional state
- Review this whole guide for ideas and techniques
Starting from the right place
This technique starts with developing the right frame of mind to record and track difficulties. You’re going to need to examine the activities you carry out, services and products that you use and the little things that can cause annoyance. Remember the reason that you are capturing these frustrations - to build business ideas from, and try not to get caught up in the emotions of the frustrations themselves!
Being aware of your thought processes
You’ll need to be aware of your thought processes. This technique works best when you’re actively observing your daily routines, tasks, chores and other interactions and can identify the areas that might cause problems. This means having some detachment and objectively taking a step back. Visualise yourself with a clipboard, noting down the areas of frustration.
Having a calm and relaxed emotional state
You’ll capture ideas best if you have a calm, relaxed emotional state. This will allow you to capture any issues in a measured and reasonable way, making it easier to identify business ideas later on. If you find that you are getting annoyed, take some deep breaths to calm and recenter yourself.
Reviewing this whole guide for ideas and techniques
Read through the rest of this guide. This will give you a good idea of the type of things you’ll be capturing and will explain how you'll be capturing them and what to do with them next.
Step 2 – Prepare to track what you do through the day and week
A methodical approach to tracking works best, this means:
- Picking a time to start tracking your activities
- Ensuring you can track things for a reasonable length of time
- Having a way to capture your thoughts in a coherent, structured way
- Remembering that this isn't just about 'Business' transactions
Pick a time to start tracking your activities
You’ll want to start tracking things when you have enough time and space, with few enough distractions that you can easily note down issues that you come across; a good time to start is the beginning of the work week.
Ensure that you can track activities for a reasonable length of time
You need to give yourself enough time to note down plenty of issues for review later. It's a good idea to spend around a week doing this to give yourself more opportunities to catch as many ideas as possible.
Have a way to capture your thoughts in a coherent, structured way
It really helps to have a form or other way to consistently and accurately capture any issues that you might have. I have provided a cou0ple of examples below of forms that you might want to use.
What are you trying to do?
What is the difficulty?
Any further information
Remember this doesn’t just need to be ‘business’ interactions
We’re looking to capture anything that you might do or try to do that could be made easier or simpler. That might not always be in a business sense, but could be in any aspect of your life, so it's worth examining multiple aspects of what you do on a daily basis for business ideas and opportunities.
Next, we'll explore how you can note down and review the issues, see if they can be turned into ideas and then shortlist them for further investigation.
The infographic below features all of the steps in a handy, easy to understand guide.
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Step 3 – Notice and note down potential difficulties and problems
This is where you'll actually be paying attention to the things causing you frustration and noting them down as follows:
- Having your forms / notepad on hand to capture things
- Going through your normal daily routines
- Paying attention and capturing any problems that annoy or frustrate you
- Continuing with this for as long as you are using the tool
Have your forms / notepad ready
You'll need to wither have a notepad or design a form (as recommended above) to assist you with capturing issues and problems. Carry it around with you so that as you go through your day it's easy for you to think about and write down any frustrations you come across.
Go through your normal daily routines
Continue to lead your life as usual: working, at home, socializing, spending time with your friends and loved ones, using the internet, enjoying your pastimes, reading, researching, chatting or anything else you would normally do.
Pay careful attention to the things that annoy or frustrate you and capture them
Observe the things that irritate you or that you think could be done better. These are the key to finding a great business idea and I've included some examples in the table below. When you come across a problem, note it down. You’ll want to capture:
- Your activity – What were you trying to do?
- The problem – What was it that stopped you or made things more difficult?
- Notes – Any useful notes; website URL, where you were, other information
- Reference – There’s also a reference number for each item so that you can easily identify it
Continue for the time that you’ve given yourself to use the tool
For the next few days, continue to capture things; by the time you are finished, you should have a good selection of problems and issues that you can examine for potential business ideas.
Some suggestions for areas you might want to capture
Frustration - Issues are worth noting down if they cause you annoyance, difficulty or frustration,
‘Why isn’t this easier?’; ‘I can’t find what I’m looking for’; ‘Why is this taking so long?’; ‘If only…’; ‘This is annoying’; ‘Aaarrrgggghhhhh!’
Inspiration - You may also find more positive things occurring to you
'Wouldn’t it be great if…’; ‘I know what would make this better’; ‘A tweak here and there would be perfect’; ‘What if we did it this way?’; ‘Aha!’
Here are some possible examples of activities and scenarios that you might note down:
- You never seem to get through all of the food in the fridge before it goes past its sell by date
- It’s difficult to find a useful, easy guide to investing in a foreign stockmarket
- In meetings, you’re continually frustrated at how ineffective the PowerPoint presentations are
- You’re learning to appreciate wine but can’t find an easy way to track tasting notes and wine quality
- You’re creating a rota/schedule at work, is there an easier way to get everyone’s availability?
Step 4 – Review what you've captured for potential business ideas
When you’ve finished capturing potential problems, it’s time to review them for business ideas. You can do this as follows:
- Going through each of your problem areas in detail and asking yourself questions to see if it's viable as a business idea
- Writing down potential ideas for a solution
Go through each problem area in detail
Go through each of the items you’ve captured and think about it objectively in some detail. Ask yourself the following questions to see if it's a viable business idea:
- Is this a problem that other people might face?
- Is this a problem that I can think of a solution to?
- Do I have the ability or know other people that have the ability to create a solution?
- Do I think that the solution is something other people would pay to use?
Write down potential ideas for a solution
If you can answer ‘Yes’ to all or most of the questions, you have a candidate for developing into a full business idea. Think about a solution - What could you build or create that can easily solve this problem? You don't need any detailed answers now, but write your potential solution down, so that you remember it.
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Step 5 – Create a Shortlist of Ideas
Once you’ve identified some solutions, it’s time to shortlist the ones that you think will be worth investigating further. You can then refine them further into solutions. Our guide to mindmapping for your business might be a useful place to start.
Through understanding the difficulties people face and developing solutions that solve those problems, you can build genuinely useful business ideas that people will pay to use.
If you have any comments on this guide or how you’ve successfully built a business by solving problems, please share them in the comments.
If you found this article useful, interesting or informative, please do check out my other guides for small business owners here.
Here are some related small business articles that I've written
- Mindmapping for small business - Mind mapping is a powerful way to visualize and act on what you need to do in business. This guide introduces you to some of the key concepts and software
- Note Taking Software & Applications - Staying on top of things means that we need to be able to easily capture information and take notes; here's a guide to some of the best software available
- Create a Small Business Idea From Your Skills & Interests - Find out how the skills and interests you already have can be combined to create powerful ideas that you can build exciting products and services around
- An Introduction to Project Management for Small Businesses - The main concepts of project management, what project managers do and how your small business can benefit