Steps for problem-solving in a startup business

Successful startup entrepreneurs are very often the focus of inspirational stories in trade magazines. The write-ups they can get often make them sound like superhuman creatures, outlining how they managed to overcome all the challenges of launching a business in a difficult sector armed only with a business plan, their will to win and a laptop. And while it is undoubtedly true that anyone who makes a success of a startup in today’s packed marketplace is impressive, the thing to remember about those stories is that they distil the facts, leaving out anything that makes the story sound less amazing and exaggerating the impressive bits.

That’s not meant to sound cutting – it is just the way the world works. But for other potential startups it can be daunting. How can you possibly compete with them, when they’re basically a wizard? The truth is that you do things to the best of your ability and you call on all the help you can get, and you deal with situations as they occur. The positive write-ups tell you what an entrepreneur has achieved, but not how they achieved it; the reality is that they had to solve any number of problems along the way. They don’t share how those problems got solved, so allow us to fill in the gaps.

They figured out what the problem was

There are two stages to identifying a problem in business: first, you notice that something is going wrong, and then you figure out why. We make plans in business, and initially, those plans are theoretical in nature. Theoretically, they work perfectly. In practice, there is almost always something you haven’t thought of because you’re human, and you can’t think of everything. It could be that you’re running a business making self-assembly furniture, and an idea looks perfect in diagram form. When assembled, though, the idea turns out to lack stability. You’ll need to go through the assembly process stage-by-stage and see where the issue is.

They came up with possible solutions

There is, unfortunately, rarely a quick fix for a problem – at least, a quick fix that doesn’t simply create another problem somewhere else. This is why it is necessary to come up with more than one solution – here, you might task multiple members of staff with seeing how they would deal with the problem. One solution might be to use a different material. Another might be to use 3D printing to create a bespoke part that removes the point of weakness. In this case, the latter soluton may well work better, because stronger materials cost more – and the bespoke part is something your competitors will have difficulty copying.

They tested the solution

It’s not enough to look at an issue, detect the source of the problem and then solve that problem. You then need to put the solution through as much testing as the initial idea went through, looking for points of weakness and honing it if necessary. This takes time and can cost money, but not nearly as much of either as it would take to action an extensive product recall after you’ve sold hundreds of units. This, and all of the above, take place in offices and factories all over the world, and we usually don’t get to see it. We just get to see the creator of the product showing off their marvellous invention. If you can hone your problem-solving skills, that creator might just be you.

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