7 Tips for Identifying a Problem and Opportunity

What separates successful entrepreneurs from those who want to be successful entrepreneurs? Many are stuck in their desire to start a business, convinced that they have not yet found “The BIG Idea.”

Blyncsy founder and Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute alum Mark Pittman suggests that effectively identifying a problem can serve as the catalyst for a strong and profitable opportunity. If you’re not solving a problem and creating value for your customers, you won’t have any.

Pittman elaborated on this tip and others in a recent workshop provided in the Lassonde for Life program, an alumni program open to all University of Utah graduates and provides free, lifelong entrepreneurial support.

Here are the tips Pittman presented that will help you identify a problem and opportunity:

1. Analyze your industry and the things you do every day

It sounds simple, but we are constantly encountering problems, big and small, over the course of our regular day. Pittman said, “Oftentimes, these are things that bother you – inefficiencies.” These problems can be at work, within our industries, or during our leisure activities. Identifying these problems is the catalyst for a successful idea.

“We have more and more issues that are happening every day, and it provides more opportunities for entrepreneurs to dive in, identify them, see if they can solve them, and come up with a marketable approach,” Pittman said.

Pittman suggested asking yourself, “What’s a problem in your life?”

2. Confirm your suspicion by asking others if this is a problem for them, too

Confirming a suspicion that a problem is a real one is important before setting out to solve it. You may begin by asking friends and family if they experience the same problem, then eliminate any easy solutions you may have missed.

3. Determine the magnitude of the pain

Once you confirm that others relate to your problem, you’ll need to determine the magnitude of their pain. If the problem is frustrating but inconsequential, it likely cannot be monetized.

Pittman said, “If you have a problem, and your goal is to monetize the solution to your problem, you want two things: repeatability and market size.”

  • Repeatability: how many people agree your problem is a real one and that it happens enough that they care enough
  • Market size: how many people believe the problem is painful enough to pay for a solution

“At the end of the day, you’re just trying to figure out if the problem you have is ready to be solved and if the framework that you’ve put together will help you get there,” Pittman said.

4. Accept that 9 out of 10 solutions may not be repeatable and scalable

Continue your research and be persistent. Not every solution will produce the outcome you want, and not every problem will have an easy and straightforward solution. Persistence will be critical to success.

Pittman cautioned: “You’re probably going to throw away nine different solutions for every problem that you have.”

5. Decide what size opportunity is large enough for you personally to address the problem

Each opportunity will have a different market, different costs, different profits, and a different overall return. There are venture-funded businesses and lifestyle businesses. If your problem impacts a smaller market and requires a lot of your time to solve, you may choose to focus on a different problem.

Ask yourself, “Is it worth it to me?”

6. Make the call and act

Confirm your market assumptions and experiment with a minimum viable product (MVP) or a Kickstarter campaign. Small, fast, and cheap wins can offer momentum to grow or to find new problems and ideas. Keep in mind that solutions may not be direct or easy; otherwise, the problem would already be solved. If you make the call that this is not the problem to solve, continue to innovate and try new things.

“When you get into that gray area if you are leaning closer to not profitable than profitable, the answer is probably: it’s not going to be profitable. In my experience, things always take three times longer and cost three times as much to take to market and develop. At the end of the day, your time is the most valuable commodity you have on Earth,” Pittman said.

7. Finally, look ahead to stay ahead.

Repeat this process over and over to reach success. Pittman warned that it will take a lot of discipline and energy to move an idea through this framework. Adaptability will be important as markets change, and technology may not always be the answer. Continue to look for opportunities and watch your market closely for signs of change.

Pittman said, “At the end of the day, staying at the plate is the important thing.”

About the Author:

Mellanie Page Mellanie Page is a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA), leadership coach, and graduate instructor who has worked for over a decade with children with autism. She is passionate about advancing the field through the lens of organizational operations. Mellanie is an MBA student at the David Eccles School of Business. Learn more and connect with her at mellaniepage.com.

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