This past year, we saw first-hand how a host of ideas were borne out of market necessity in the face of the pandemic. Suddenly, companies were forced to do business in a completely different way if they wanted to survive the changing times.
In March 2020, when the pandemic officially disrupted U.S. businesses, innovation moved to the top of the priority list. To meet customer needs, established businesses had to become creative to find new ways to provide products and services and many looked to solutions brought forward by internal innovation teams or offered by start-ups.
Contactless service is a prime example. After businesses spent years emphasizing the value of personalized service, in a matter of weeks, an about-face in consumer behavior made “touch-free” the preferred method – if not a mandated requirement.
And today the pandemic has brought forth significant business challenges, while also presenting significant opportunities. Beyond any one pivotal event though, it’s important to identify the right opportunities. Here are three things to consider before you dive in:
Be Open Minded
There is always a better, smarter and faster way to do something – this is what separates quick moving entrepreneurs from large corporations who are traditionally slower to innovate. Entrepreneurs thrive on solving problems no matter how difficult or complex; they love thinking through different and better ways of doing things for the benefit of all their stakeholders; including their colleagues, and future clients.
This is some of the best advice I can give to an emerging entrepreneur. Learn everything you can about the issue you are trying to solve and do something every day to further that knowledge. Ideally you should work in the industry for a few years so you are well versed in the culture and industry protocols. With dedication and perseverance, you will become an expert. The business you think you’re going to create is never the business you actually create. In the discovery phase of a new idea, it is crucial to be open to the different directions it might take you and other often better approaches to solving a problem. If you cannot adapt to an idea or a solution changing, you cannot see the clearest path forward.
You can have a great idea to solve a problem, but it is not necessarily a great business idea or it may not be market scalable. It’s important to let your exploratory due diligence lead the way in making the distinction. Conduct a real discovery – identify needs, missing links, and figure out how to extinguish a “well, we always do it this way” approach. Most importantly, reach out to the people on the ground.
For example, in the apartment industry, depending on the issue you are trying to solve, there are different opinions on even defining the problem, so you must be sure to look at all perspectives. Interview people at every level of the organization, from the executives to the leasing team. You must validate the solution with the people who are doing the work on a daily basis.
Even still, nothing is full-proof. If your great idea for a product or service is not embraced, perhaps there is a silver lining. By pitching market ideas to potential clients and investors, perhaps an even bigger problem with a better solution is discovered along the way, as is often the case. The key is to be open to the possibilities and adapt.
Focus on the solution, not the money
The most successful companies are the ones who singularly focus on solving a problem or making something better, not chasing the payout. We’ve all heard the stories – startups netting billion-dollar buyouts for ideas that seem simple enough. It’s easy to point and say, “I should have thought of that idea! I’d be rich!” Unfortunately, this creates a lot of entrepreneurs who enter the arena for the wrong reasons, and for as many billion-dollar ideas you see, there are so many more companies that don’t work out. To succeed, your solution must provide value and your value must be the solution. Never has that been more true, or more important, than right now.
Georgianna W. Oliver is the founder and CEO of Tour24, the leading on-demand platform for self-guided apartment tours. Tour24’s transformative technology integrates with smart home technology providers to deliver safe, self-guided property tours and serve as an extension of leasing teams to support lead generation.