There’s this idea out there among many wannabe business owners that they have to come up with the next completely fresh idea in order to have a great business.
Shows like Shark Tank (which I love) go towards creating this kind of mindset — although the sharks do a very nice job of bursting the bubbles of anyone who thinks that business success is merely about having that great idea.
But I ran across this story about a company that was founded in the ’70s, and whose product you have very likely seen (especially if you have ever owned a dog).
It *is*, in fact, about the idea. But the idea was found within the cast-offs of an existing vocational work, and there might be something in there that sparks an idea for you.
Because I still think there is something to be said for us “small fry” entrepreneurs — the service business owners, the independent retailers, the salespeople, the franchisee, etc. — who look at the stories of those who have succeeded rather dramatically, and to see what it is they did.
Whether it’s a new product or service line within your existing business, or something brand new, sometimes we need to just open our eyes to identify and begin solving problems in an effective way.
Solving Problems in Businesses with Effective Solutions
“Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Joe Markham had a problem.
The three-year-old German Shepherd he’d adopted, Fritz, loved to chew rocks. So much, in fact, that his teeth were one-third their normal size.
In every other way, Fritz was a wonderful and loving companion. But Markham knew the dog’s one bad habit was endangering his health. So Markham, a partner in a motorcycle shop, encouraged Fritz to try softer substitutes: radiator hoses and motorcycle tires (customers often saw Fritz flying through the shop with a whole bike tire sticking out of his mouth).
But the dog didn’t favor either of these items enough for it to become a rock replacement.
When winter came, the bike shop kept busy by working on cars and snowmobiles. One day, Fritz stretched under a workbench, pulled out a part from a car, and trotted over to Markham, where the dog dropped the part on Markham’s foot. This rubber-knobbed gizmo was a prize — and it was love at first bite. Fritz forgot his beloved rocks. His new obsession had customers asking what kind of toy was making the dog so joyful.
That’s when Markham speculated that if his dog loved this type of rubber so much, other dogs would too.
And so began a long journey of prototypes, rejections, manufacturing woes, ridicule, and late-night commercial slots. But Markham persevered because he knew his real customers — the furry, four-legged ones — would prove him right.
Today Markham’s toy, the Kong, has surpassed sales of 50 million products — almost one for every dog in America. And my take is that while perseverance played a role in his success, the real secret was that he stayed focused on finding a fun, effective solution to a common problem.
So I ask you, business owners…
Where can YOU find these hidden answers to common problems faced by your own customers? It doesn’t have to involve some witty, new invention — it can simply be serving a felt need effectively and well.
But those problems ARE out there. And the answer might very well be sitting in your cast-offs.
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