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Understand the problem

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One of my first jobs out of school was as a painter. The first day on the job the wise old English accented guy who owned the business said to me, “The problem is not getting the paint on the wall. It’s about keeping it off everything else. Spend at least half your working time prepping the room as you do painting it, and you’ll be fine.”

His words have stayed with me through many roles and projects over the years.

Looking back, what I realize is that he had understood the problem in a way that allowed him to have a simple, yet perfectly correct, solution. This seems to be where many so called “solutions” being marketed fall down. They don’t truly understand the problem they are trying to solve with the product. In some cases, there isn’t even a target problem. Just a product in search of one.

All this to say when I sit down with a founder or business owner to talk about their business, the first place I like to start is the fit between their product and the market, and specifically the problem being solved. Invariably that conversation bears the most fruit in the quest for improvement.