After almost 13 years of being involved with Private Property, I have now sold my last shares and have no formal ties with the business that I helped built. Since I’ve left, I often get contacted by people looking to discuss a business or idea that they have. They are usually looking for some advice, contacts, money or help in some other way. I am always keen to hear what people have to say, and to learn about as many opportunities as possible. Since I now have full command of my own time, well except for the demands of my wife and kids, I usually meet and listen.
I had another meeting like this on Saturday. During the meeting I had a bit of the thunderbolt moment. The old friend of my dad’s was explaining their business idea, and elaborating on all the things they were trying and planning to do. This in the real estate and mortgage industry, which I had some experience with. The more he talked the more alarm bells were going off in my head.
It felt like his ideas was all over the place and they were trying to do way too much. The basic core idea was very interesting, but he breezed over that very quickly and wanted to talk about all the bells and whistles. I quickly tried to explain a little about taking a Lean Startup approached and focussing on solving one meaningful problem.
By looking for a pressing and meaningful problem you can solve, and do so in an elegant way, you give your business a chance to really make it. This I think requires all your energy and effort. You need to learn as much about the problem as possible, try out possible solutions as quickly and cheaply as possible. In the learning process you get to test assumptions that you did not even know you’ve made that might well be wrong.
The more pressing the problem is you are trying to solve, the easier you marketing will be. Solving a slight inconvenience leads to products that need big marketing budgets, while solution to real pressing problems become products that can almost sell themselves. I think Ralph Waldo Emerson was wrong when he said: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door”. It is not about the product, but the problem it solves.
I can’t help but think that there are many people like this guy out there, with good ideas buried below a whole heap of fluff that could well work with the right effort and focus. But they might never see the light of day, because of a lack of focus and the right approach.
Sadly I fear that I did not get the message through this time, but I will keep trying. Hopefully I can see it as clearly when I am looking to solve one meaningful problem myself.