Whatever your motivation behind launching your startup, follow these steps to ensure your business will be successful from day one.
People start businesses for a variety of reasons. Some are motivated by the financial and personal freedom that can accompany entrepreneurism. Others set out to change the world. For some, it’s a hybrid of both. This hybrid is a common thread in businesses created to solve a problem.
Solution providers come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s creating a product or offering a service, they are all governed by universal guiding principles.
Creating a business that solves a challenge provides a wealth of opportunity, but this also can be a tricky space to navigate. To create a successful business whose goal is to provide a solution, keep these points in mind:
1. Be solution-oriented
To be a successful solution provider, you must be able to answer “yes” to two questions: does the challenge need a new solution, and does your business create that solution rather than just providing a “feature?” (Click to Tweet!) Your business must always focus on the end goal of providing a solution.
It’s not enough to offer a feature that doesn’t fully solve the problem. A feature is not a functioning business. Like a Band-Aid, it can mask challenges, but can’t completely solve the problem. And features usually require users to find other solutions. You’ll create a user base and demand within the marketplace if you can identify the need for a solution and show how your product or service fills that void.
2. Sell before you build
Before selling the final product or services, you must first sell the idea to the market. When we first designed DecisionDesk, our focus was to streamline the application process for potential music school students. Having applied to music programs ourselves, we understood the challenges facing applicants pursuing university music degrees. But when we spoke with the faculty and admission staff who would be our potential clients, we found the problem was much larger than we had originally imagined.
To redefine the application process and tap into our full success potential, we’d have to address the challenges for all users — applicants and application reviewers. The same holds true for any solution provider. A universal solution can be marketed to a universal audience.
3. Find your differentiating factor
For common problems, it’s likely someone else has already attempted to create a solution. And it’s just as likely that someone will follow your lead and create a competing solution. So standing out from the crowd is extra important.
Building a business with potential for longevity must incorporate a differentiating factor that disqualifies potential competitors. In DecisionDesk’s case, that difference evolved over time. When we first launched, our allowance of unlimited media uploads made us stand out in a crowd. But as we expanded the business, we gradually became known for our amazing customer service.
4. Create a strong advisory board early
Advisory boards are important for any business, particularly startups. Your board should provide access to resources, the most important one being knowledge. This is why it’s vital to build a board with voices that represent both customers and experts from your particular industry. Your board will also need to represent a blend of those with product-based and business development experience.
The more diversified your board is, the more knowledge you have to tap into. This will help you better grasp your market and craft a business that provides a universal solution. Businesses that can leverage the resources of an advisory board are better prepared for the future. The value of experience that your board brings to your business is invaluable.
5. Always validate externally
It’s easy to create an echo chamber, especially if you share the pain point your business is looking to address. Those who achieve success do so by looking externally to assess the business. External validation can come in several forms: it can be a high demand from the market, an advisory board or prospective clients. You must prove your business is viable and provides an unrivaled solution.
The reality is, the world is full of challenges to be solved. Businesses that seek to provide solutions and change the world find success when they help consumers solve problems. Those that embrace their potential market and open themselves to feedback are bound to produce better products or provide better services and thus are better suited to achieve success.
Eric Neuman is the co-founder and CTO of DecisionDesk, an application platform that lets users quickly access, filter and review applications to find the very best talent for their organization.