Anything that’s difficult to deal with is a problem.
Problems are an integral part of our lives, like a kitchen is an integral part of a home.
As long as we exist, problems exist.
Problems are of different types. They are found in every aspect of our life, and in business. In fact they are the business!
When it comes to problems, most of us try to pass the buck, as the old saying goes. But that is not how Martin Zwilling, a veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional and angel investor, looks at problems. I can’t agree more when he said:
“A problem is actually an opportunity in disguise!”
in his “Nine Steps to Effective Business problem Solving” article posted in Business Insider (2011).
Most inventions are made to answer a difficult question. Most products are produced to make a difficult task easy. Most apps are designed to offer solutions to technological challenges.
According to Dictionary.com, a problem is a ‘perceived’ gap between the existing state and a desired state or a deviation from a norm, standard or status.
So a ‘gap’ you got to fill out, and there are several ways (you may call them ‘solutions’) to fill the gap. Avoiding or postponing is never the solution nor is it an option.
As the problems are different, so are the solutions and the means that we use to fill in the ‘gap’.
Problems in a startup are like teething problem in a baby. You won’t knock off the baby’s teeth because the teeth bother the baby and the baby, in turn, disturbs your sleep. In other words, some problems are inevitable; they stay with us and we just sit them out. According to Martin Zwilling, they not problems but facts we should live with.
However, there are some common problems that every business experiences. Major startup companies have major problems and minor companies have minor problems. The difference, however, is that major companies seem to deal with their problems more easily than the startups because they have more experience, more resources and more experienced staff to handle them.
5 Startup Problems & more than 5 solutions
# 1 Funding
Most startups end up shutting down because of money problems. Some entrepreneurs start their ambitious projects with overconfidence or over-enthusiasm. As beginner’s luck turns bad over time, so are an entrepreneur’s moneyless plans doomed to fail.
Most startups launch their products with little or no financial reserves to fall back on when the ‘milk turns sour’.
There are several simple possible solutions to this finance problem.
There are about 500 crowdfunding platforms with different options covering different types of businesses. The best thing for a startup is to choose the one most suitable and proceed with it, after proving their salt to achieve it.
Here is a list of the top 10 crowdfunding websites for fund raising:
Kickstarter is one of the earliest crowdfunding websites and is aimed at creative projects. This is not for businesses, charities or personal funding projects. An example of a project is KLOS Guitars which designs and manufactures the first durable, affordable, and comfortable carbon fiber travel guitar.
IndieGogo is a tightly focused crowdfunding website that caters to donation based projects for hobbyists, personal finance requirements, charities etc. A typical example would be Bringing Light to Nepal by Little Sun Solar Lights project.
Crowdfunder is not reward based funding but rather focuses on investments from sophisticated investors. Ventures often start at Kickstarter or IndieGogo and then move to Crowdfunder for serious investment. A typical example would be Digitzs raising $750,000 for a groundbreaking platform where merchants get paid next day and choose their fees.
RocketUp is a donation based crowdfunding website that caters to mostly creative projects. They also support the campaigns through their LaunchPad and FuelPad programs to enable clients to properly promote their campaigns to secure funding. A typical example would be a project to raise funds for an Expedition to The Arctic.
Crowdrise describes itself as the world’s #1 fundraising site for medical bills, volunteer trips, amazing and fun causes, and over 1.5 million charities. A typical example would be a Nepal Relief Effort or a Medical Campaign in Nigeria.
GoFundMe is a crowdfunding website catering to personal fundraising and most of the campaigns are for funds needed to cover the costs of the loss of a dear one.
Razoo is a crowdfunding website focusing on causes and non-profits although they do have sections for corporations and individuals. With the help of the donation and share widgets, Razoo makes it easy for people to share their funding campaigns on Facebook etc.
AngelList describes itself as a platform for startups—started by the dudes who do Venture Hacks. If you are a tech startup and already have an investor or two on board and want to gain momentum and growth then AngelList is the place to go.
If you are lookimg to start your own crowdfunding platform and promote it to attract both campaigners and investors then Invested.In provides the software and platform to support your ambitions.
Quirky is the place to go if you are inventor, maker or a tinkerer of sorts. Crowdfunding for inventing, creating, building and bringing inventions to market is what Quirky is all about.
There are angel investors that fund a potential startup in the hope of getting a share of the profit when the startup makes it big. There are startup funding platforms. There are the Silicon Valley Venture Capital funding in addition to the more traditional investors and bankers, if a startup can prove its worth.
# 2 Product Nature
A startup must know what its product or service is. Is it a product or service a customer ‘like to have’ or is it a product the customer ‘must have’. Whichever category your product or service is, you got to convince your customer. Apparel and accessories are ‘like to have’ products and ‘food’ & some of the ‘health care’ products are ‘must have’ products. Basing on this simple logic, you entice your customers. You plan your promotion policy. You design your publicity strategy.
# 3 Time Management
Time management is a skill that we all can master. Most of the business owners find it hard to balance their social and family life with their businesses. It is as important to have some time for oneself as it is to run a business. Most marriage breakups are the result of mismanagement of time. Not all professions and businesses can be managed between 9 to 5. A physician is called any time and a businessman needs to attend issues at odd times. However, with some knowledge in time management, a person can have the cake and eat it. There are several tutorials and inspiring writeups found Online. By scheduling your program, you can enjoy being with your family, relatives and friends, and manage your business peacefully.
I have addressed this issue in my article ‘Managing Time – Tips for Business Owners’.
# 4 One Man Show
Most small business owners start their businesses all by themselves. It’s not uncommon to see a single mother with two more mouths to feed starting an online business from her kitchen table with her laptop. However, once the plans are to be moved from the drawing board to the factory floor or to the office desk, you need help from others, those workers who can actually keep the boiler belly full with coal… all the time. The more the ‘boss’ is stressed out, the more damage is done to the business.
For some serious entrepreneurs multitasking is not just a means to save money, but to do things the way they like it… keeping their mind, soul and body in their dream project. They probably doubt the commitment of the hired professionals.
However, such sincere ‘artists’ must understand that business is like a work of art that needs not only to be appreciated but also to be sold, and though any artist can draw a picture, only an experienced professional can make it a masterpiece and sell it at a higher price!
So, you need a mate and some men to sail your ship more smoothly and safely.
# 5 Running Costs
In some cases, depending on the nature of the product or service, running costs exceed production costs. The outlets or the offices in prime locations, interior decoration of the office or equipment installation in a factory, trade regulation requirements, such as fire accident and workers’ safety precaution measures and customers’ comforts, and of course, the staff salaries may seem too burdensome for a small business owner, especially when it takes more time than normal, to make a break-even.
Therefore, the best way is, once again, listing out the priorities well in advance. There are several online and offline experts that are too ready to help you out with such mundane issues. One can always go for offers and instalment facilities, like used furniture instead of expensive brand new furniture suite. Hire professionals on ‘piece rate pay method’, which will benefit both you and your employee, at least, until your business can afford full-time employees.
Online presence: The Net is cast all over… on almost all the aspects of our lives. If you are not online, you do not exist! Therefore, have your presence felt online.
I have addressed this issue, in detail, in several of my articles.
Ecommerce For Very Small Businesses and many more.
So, identify the problem, study it, understand it, and then find ways to turn it into opportunity!