During our accelerator boot-camp, we tell our entrepreneurs that to be able to make a living you need to solve problems for others. Life is a series of problems. If you are of the optimist kind, it may sound harsh to call every situation that you confront during the day as a problem. Let’s call them instead challenges, puzzles. The bottom line is that you need to have the intelligence, skills and demeanor to work through every puzzle that comes your way. Sometimes you can anticipate these puzzles, and sometimes they are always the same. We have “formulas” for that. For those we have series of steps that we apply always in the same sequence to get to the solutions. They become not necessarily challenging, perhaps a bit like drills, but basically your routines. Routines are good to have, they give us structure.
Whether you run your own business or work for someone else, part of your work is going through the drills. Some jobs require just that. Solving problems, working out the puzzles following the fixed patterns already known, makes you a worker. Solving problems in a new way, breaking out of the fixed patterns, makes you an entrepreneur. You may or may not be successful at this. The word itself means to undertake. In its original French, it conveys a little bit of a sense of “taking hold of and doing”. It is about action more than it is about results, or success. This makes a lot of sense to me, and that is why we tell our boot-camp participants that they can try to do things in new ways, but that doesn’t mean they will succeed at making this new way worthwhile by creating value.
When you change how something is done and try a new way, you know you created value if you make an additional profit that was not there before. The current way may already be profitable. Your new way may result in a lower profit – telling you that it was not a better way. The key to be a successful entrepreneur is to arrange resources – taking hold of and doing – in a new way that produces additional profit.
The only way to know if this idea you may have is a successful one, is by taking a measure of this additional profit. The only way for that to happen is by trying it out. It is that simple. You must test before you can measure. If you are going to fail, you want to fail fast, and move on. One of the reasons why people enroll in these accelerator programs is because it helps them get a framework for measuring. It is akin to using one of those stain removers that cautions you to test it on a hidden part of the surface you are cleaning, before going all out – to avoid greater damage to the surface.
If you have a unique idea to solve a problem, or a better way to accomplish something, test it on your own, on a very small scale. Decide what the sensible metric is. Measure the outcome’s benefit, in dollars and cents. Is the cost lower? Is the yield better? Is the quality superior? Is it simpler? Is it faster? Is it more accurate? If the answers are positive, you may have something to get a hold of, and start the journey.