what problem are you really solving

[bctt tweet=”You probably aren’t doing what you think you are doing. In business, that is.”]

In business, it’s easy to think the sign on the door tells what problem we’re solving:


Products for sale.

Idea consulting.



21Jan The emyth revisited

Excavator, really Grant?

Yep. I have a friend who does dirt work. To protect the innocent, we’ll call him Bob. You know, like Bob the Builder. He’s pretty dang good at it. You need a hole in the ground, he’s got the tools. He’s got the experience. You need gravel delivered or snow removed? These are his specialties.


I was talking to Bob recently about his business. The funny thing is, we didn’t spend any time talking about his work. We talked about cash flow and invoicing, hiring and managing people, making decisions about what kind of equipment to buy and what sort of work to get. But we didn’t spend any time talking about how you dig holes or haul gravel.

As I say often, business is a creative endeavor.

An endless line of interesting problems to solve. But if you want to be successful, the one thing that can’t be a problem for you is what you do for your customers. The problem you solve, can’t be a problem for your business. Does that make sense?

21Jan Business is a creative endeavour

Think about it – the photographer, has to be great at taking pictures.

That’s an assumption.

Can you imagine a doula showing up for labor with questions about exactly how the process works? Imagine your fear and surprise when she pulls out a book, “Doula’ing for Dummies” in the middle of your labor and starts to read up on how to help.

doulaing for dummies book SML

Or as another friend of mine who is an Emergency Room nurse says:

‘Going to the Emergency Room is an emergency. Running an Emergency Room isn’t.’

In fact, it can’t be. It won’t work that way. We take our emergencies to a place that is specifically designed to handle them and we don’t expect them to be as anxious or unprepared as we might be for the visit, right?

In business, the service you provide must be an assumption.

The problem you’re actually solving is something different.

Let’s jump back to Bob. For Bob, the challenges aren’t in the work, but in the logistics and processes that make it possible for him to show up in your yard, with the right machine, the right crew, on the right day, with the right plan, to get started digging for the new garage you’re having built. Oh, and he’s got to make money in the end of all of those efforts, so let’s say profitable logistics and processes…

Do you see where I’m going here? It is a subtle shift perhaps, but as you think about it, it gets bigger and bigger.

Chances are you’re already good at what you ‘do’ for your customers. That’s how you came to be in business. But that’s not enough to keep you in business.

You cannot be good enough at your craft to overcome being bad at running your business and still achieve the kind of results you dream about.


In his book The eMyth Revisited, Michael Gerber outlines three roles that all business people have floating around inside their heads. They are the Entrepreneur, the Manager, and the Technician.

Lots of us are drawn to business by the Technician.

We are good at something. People say, hey, why don’t you sell this, do this fulltime, open a shop and offer this service?


Gerber talks about the moment when we get a flash of inspiration and for just an instant, the Entrepreneur shows up and says

“YES, that’s a GREAT idea. What do you say folks, let’s do this thing!?!”

For many people in business, that’s the last time the Entrepreneur is seen in for a long, long time.

21Jan A problem well put is a problem half solved

So who’s running the place?

Well, Gerber says it is the Manager and the Technician, but in most cases, I see an awful lot of the Technician at work.

The person who does great work, but doesn’t communicate the whole time the work is underway – a Technician.

The referral you get from a friend, that comes with a caveat…”if you want your cake by your wedding date, make sure you get her started on it a year in advance. She’s great, but she’s always behind” – yep, a Technician.

The mechanic who says (when YOU call), ‘Oh, yeah, your car is done, but I haven’t gotten around to the invoice yet, should just be a few more days (and you’re thinking days = weeks)’ – definitely a Technician.

Which brings us back to Bob, remember, the Builder? Digging holes and hauling gravel is Technician stuff. That’s his trade. But solving the problems of how to run the business and how to grow the business, these are problems that the Manager and Entrepreneur are uniquely suited for and they should be solving them.

And so how about you?

Take a minute and think about your business. Are you good at what you do, the part that you actually produce/give/deliver/provide to your customers? Great.

How about the rest of it?

Are you hiding anywhere behind the idea that you can be so good at your core skillset that you don’t have to focus on other areas?

Remember what I said above: **You cannot be good enough at your craft to overcome being bad at running your business and still achieve the kind of results you dream about.**

21Jan You can not be good enough

Do you know how to change hats and bring your inner Entrepreneur into your business in the right places?

The 2016 Create Your Shining Biz Workbook is designed to surface your inner Entrepreneur and give her a boost in helping to run your business. Sometimes, it can feel like you’ve been involved in hostile takeover by an out-of-control Technician, and the questions, dreaming, and goal-setting activities the Workbook provides can be super helpful in re-focusing you on what brought you here in the first place – not your great skills, but your great dream.

That’s also the purpose of the new weekly Diary-Planner. By bringing your goals and dreams into a monthly, weekly, and daily focus, you can remember what you’re really chasing and as a result, be more disciplined on working across all the parts of your business.

Take a minute and think about your business.

How would you describe the problems you’re really solving? What are people really paying for? They may think they are buying your end-product, but what really satisfies people is a whole set of different tasks you’re executing with excellence.

Let me leave you with a final picture.

Have you seen the show Cake Boss? An energetic baker with a serious New Jersey accent bakes beautiful cakes for all sorts of occasions. Clearly, Buddy, THE Cake Boss, is awesome at baking cakes. Most of his creations wouldn’t get past the flour stage with me. His cakes always amaze and delight his customers. But what you see on the show is the behind-the-scenes view, and there, it’s easy to see the problems Buddy is really solving.

In order to deliver an amazing cake at a specific time, he’s got to have a team of people, the right tools, the right ingredients, and a bakery culture that brings all those aspects together in the production of masterpiece after masterpiece. At the front end, people ask for and receive cakes, but back in the bakery, people problems, process problems, equipment problems (and the occasional vehicular incident) are all on the road toward the Cake Boss delivering another stunning creation.

If you’re not familiar Buddy the Cake Boss, this is a great clip of him in action:

So why does this matter, really?

Isn’t it just semantics, to say I’m solving this problem or that problem?

I don’t think so.

I think it’s like John Dewey said, “a problem well put is half solved.”

When we focus on solving the right problems, we can ensure that our business is fully prepared to deliver the kind of output our customers need to rely on. We will have prepared to delight them and in the process, improved our income, our sanity, and the longevity of the precious entity we’re working so hard to create.

problemwellput SML

If you’re looking for something to do over the next couple of weeks to get your head in the right place for growing your business in 2016…

I highly recommend a read through the eMyth Revisited. (And completing your Create Your Shining Year in Biz Workbook! If you haven’t bought one yet, get one today at shiningyear.com!)

Be well + enjoy the journey,

grant sig 2

P.S. FYI: we’re down to our last few boxes of printed books + won’t be reprinting this year! One of you is going to score one of the lucky last ones to score one! Don’t miss out!!!)



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