The third of the six essential traits that all entrepreneurs-in-the-making must possess that we discuss in Entrepreneurial Leap is Problem-Solver. Being a problem-solver is as much about new ideas, innovation, and creating things as it is about dealing with barriers, obstacles, and setbacks. A problem-solver is an optimist by nature. You see solutions to everything, whether it is a product or service you create to fill a need you saw, or a setback you experience when your product fails and you reinvent it. Your mind always sees solutions.
A problem-solver is always figuring out how to make something smarter, faster, less expensive, better, or higher-quality. They are innovators and testers who love trial and error. When they hit a brick wall, they figure out how to go over it, around it, or through it.
Meet Bob Verdun
A prime example of this would be the case of Bob Verdun, who overcame two major problems during the 20 years of building his business.
Bob started his company in 1990 after resigning from a lucrative job in tech because he didn’t like the way his boss treated people. He then became a contractor in the software industry, teaching resellers for a software company. As Bob was teaching these resellers, who were all entrepreneurs, he realized that he too was an entrepreneur.
He said to himself, “Are you kidding me? If they can do this, I can do this.” And he started his own business. With no business plan, with no outside money, he bootstrapped a software resale company. His company, CFI, started selling, servicing, and implementing computer-aided design (CAD) software for design companies, digitizing their old paper drawings and helping companies run the software and hardware.
Major problem to solve #1
Bob’s company had a great record of success for five years, until the competition caught up and the business became commoditized. He could see the end was coming, so he had to reinvent the business. He morphed CFI into a service business that focused on large-scale implementations of software outside of CAD. The shift worked and the company grew into a $28 million company.
Major problem to solve #2
Then, unfortunately, in 2000 when the dot com crash hit, CFI plunged from $28 million in revenue to $4 million overnight. Bob had to reinvent the company once again.
First, he had to lay off many of his employees. He focused the company on generating recurring revenues through complicated software implementations for real estate companies that had multiple assets to manage. To protect the company from another downturn, he diversified the product lines and the geographical scope. The company rapidly grew again, became highly profitable, and seamlessly sailed through the great recession of 2008.
In 2015, Bob successfully sold his company.
A problem solver is someone who leans into problems, obsesses about them, genuinely gets a high from solving them. That takes a special type of person. Most people run from their problems, avoid them, or hope they solve themselves or go away.
You have to want to solve problems. No matter how great your original vision is, bumps will appear in the road. Your industry can change and your customers’ needs can change. If you can’t fix what is holding your company back, it’s game over.
List the 3 biggest problems you face right now, and then list 3 potential solutions for each one of them.