If you have ambitions to grow your small company into a large one, you need to make sure it has room to grow.
To see how that works, consider that humble box of baking soda in your refrigerator. Baking soda was originally developed for, well, baking. It solved a baker’s problem – the difficulty of getting baked goods to rise. But then, people discovered other problems the product solved – diaper rash, kitchen fires, grease stains … and refrigerator odors.
Manufacturers such as Arm & Hammer found demand for their product that was quite unrelated to their company’s original idea.
But what Arm & Hammer found out indirectly about solving wider and bigger problems, you need to do intentionally. How do you do that? Here’s a three-step process.
1. What problem(s) are you solving now?
You may have started your business to provide a specific product (such as baking soda) or service. But your customers may look at the situation quite differently. They’re looking to buy a solution to a problem they’re facing, like diaper rash or a carpet stain. Sometimes, it’s more than one problem – a box of baking soda helps bake cookies and helps clean the kitchen counter.
So, you need to get a clear idea of what problems you’re solving for your customers now. To do this, consult with your customers directly, get input from your sales team, and see what people are saying about you on social media.
Then ask yourself: are the problems we’re solving now the problems that will help us continue to grow? Should we be solving different, maybe bigger, problems?
2. Find the right bigger problems to solve
The world is full of bigger problems – climate change, overpopulation, civil unrest, and many more. But how do you find the right bigger problems? Some ideas that may guide your quest:
Do people with money feel this problem? If you’re running a business, you need to earn revenue – so the problems you solve must involve people who have the money to pay you. And, the problems must be pressing – those ideal customers must actually feel the pain and urgency enough to want to pay you to solve those problems for them
Does this problem give meaning and urgency to your life? As well as pressing on your customers, the problems you’re solving must motivate you. They have to help you get going in the morning and stay at it all day. Only then will you be able to motivate others on your team, even those who don’t interact directly with customers, to help solve those problems too.
Does this problem have staying power? You need a problem that will continue – and better yet, continue to grow. Only then will you have the basis for a business that has sustainability.
Now, let’s consider how you can bake that sustainability into your business.
3. Develop a solution that’s disruptive
If your answer to the problem of refrigerator odors is another box of baking soda, you may need to re-think your approach. You’ll be struggling against a well-entrenched competitor.
Instead, the solution you offer must be disruptive – in other words, it must be unusual and offer new solutions to existing problems. One reason is that if it’s a big enough problem, it won’t be solvable by current thinking, or someone would have solved it already. And, you need to seize attention, and offer an advantage compelling enough so that potential customers will say, “I want some of that.”
Our work at the CFO Centre is something like that. We saw a problem – entrepreneurs whose dreams crash to earth because they don’t have the financial lift they need under their wings. And we saw that many companies can’t afford a full-time experienced CFO (that cash problem again), and what’s more, they don’t need one.
What many (we like to think all) growing companies can use is ongoing access to a CFO’s ability to clear away the financial stumbling blocks, but without a full-time CFO’s cost. So was born our “fractional” CFO – a permanent, but part-time, financial advisor.
That’s our disruptive solution.
One thing we’ve found out is the importance of having the cash you need to build a way to solve the “big problem” you’ve decided to focus on. Without cash, it’s like you’re trying to walk when you need to fly. To learn more about the importance of cash flow, the reasons for it (such as slow-paying customers, high fixed costs), and some steps you can take to resolve them, download our free e-book, simply titled “Cashflow.”