Elon Musk. Mark Zuckerberg. Richard Branson. What do all three of these incredibly successful entrepreneurs have in common? They’re not magicians. They’re not superhuman demigods, preordained to change the world at birth. They don’t have divine powers that give them an unfair advantage in creating products or services that will make them billions of dollars. These entrepreneurs are just like most business owners. Every day, they solve problems of all sizes – just like you.
Entrepreneurs as problem-solvers
An entrepreneur is someone who creates a business. They generate an idea, develop it and take it to market. Despite how it may look on the outside, none of the world’s self-made business magnates, inventors or successful entertainers have gotten where they are without experiencing and learning from failures along the way. What sets them apart is that they never give up on their dreams and they’re not fearful of trying a new approach.
At their core, the best entrepreneurs are phenomenal problem-solvers with an insatiable drive for learning and solving what they set out to accomplish. Many entrepreneurs come up with successful business ideas by looking for problems that need solving and then solving them. Joy Mangano, for example, famously created the Miracle Mop out of her frustration with traditional mops. She identified a problem – ineffective mops – and created a solution that happened to turn her into an extremely successful entrepreneur.
Tip: If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, focus on networking with others in your industry. No one becomes a success on their own; you need people in your corner.
Phenomenal problem-solvers in business
After creating the Miracle Mop, Mangano identified other problems and developed products to solve them. She became a household name from the years she spent selling her inventions on QVC and HSN, and her life even inspired the movie Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence. But she’s not the only entrepreneur who is a phenomenal problem-solver.
Consider another famous problem-solver: Musk helped revolutionize payment processing with PayPal, a stagnant automotive industry with Tesla and the tremendously complex aerospace industry with SpaceX – all by the age of 43. Musk is determined to make transportation cheaper, more efficient and accessible to everyone in the world, and he keeps generating ways to accomplish that. [Read our PayPal review to find out how Musk’s former company works as a credit card processor.]
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg has connected the world in ways not previously imagined before Facebook came around. He’s dedicated himself to getting the entire world online, and that means regularly solving connectivity issues across the globe. Fellow entrepreneur Branson has brought uniqueness and authenticity to countless industries through his Virgin Group, which comprises dozens of companies. Branson is on a lifelong quest to teach others and create opportunities for people to succeed.
Looking at these examples in a vacuum can give you a very warped perception of what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. It’s much easier to look back and create a story that points to all of the reasons why certain people have risen to success. But something they all have in common is great problem-solving skills.
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The benefits of being a great problem-solver
Problem-solvers use critical and creative thinking to make the world a better place. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a business owner who took over someone else’s company, there are many benefits to being a problem-solver.
Problem-solvers identify risks threatening their lives, workplaces and communities. They can often come up with solutions to future problems, saving everyone a lot of time and hassle. Plus, problem-solvers typically work well under pressure and are more productive. They also have the ability to think outside of the box and figure out solutions that lead to better outcomes than anyone anticipated. [Follow these tips to boost your small business’s productivity.]
As an entrepreneur or business owner, you’re likely to encounter problems like funding issues, market volatility and employee turnover. A dozen things could be competing for your time and attention at any given moment. But a great problem-solver can whittle down seemingly big issues to a core problem and identify the appropriate solution. To solve the issues mentioned here, maybe you develop new strategies to raise capital or determine why employees are quitting. A talented entrepreneur believes there are always solutions to the problems they encounter, and they aren’t irrationally stressed when problems inevitably arise.
Did you know? The best project management software can help you keep track of ongoing issues and implement solutions.
How to be a great problem-solver
If your goal is to become a successful entrepreneur, you should start by looking for ways to solve problems. Here are some steps you can take to be a great problem-solver.
- Identify the root of the problem. It’s not enough to identify that a problem exists; you also need to drill down to the root cause. When did the problem begin, and what steps can you take to address it? Looking for the root of the problem ensures you create a solution that addresses the cause instead of just dealing with the symptoms.
- Brainstorm multiple solutions. Next, you need to take the time to brainstorm multiple solutions. Try to think outside of the box and come up with ideas that are innovative and that other people haven’t thought of. Really push the envelope, and don’t just settle for the first few ideas you come up with. It can help to collaborate and bounce ideas off other people so you have a variety of perspectives.
- Arrive at one solution. Once you have your list of ideas, you need to pare it down to one solution. Consider the risks and benefits of all your proposed solutions. As you identify the ideal solution, consider which option is the most feasible and can be scaled easily.
- Plan and implement your idea. Anyone can come up with a good idea; the real test lies in how you execute it. Come up with a well-thought-out plan that minimizes the risks involved. It’s also helpful to think about any effects you’ll notice once the solution is in place.
- Measure your success. Finally, you need to measure your success and whether you achieved your objectives. Was the problem indeed solved? Don’t feel bad if you fall short. Instead, look at it as a learning experience that will help you the next time.
Creating meaningful solutions
If you want to be an entrepreneur, don’t waste time analyzing your life events to determine your probability of success. Spend your time discovering your passions, learning as much as you can within your areas of interest and seeking to create meaningful solutions to the problems you see in your space. Above all else, understand that you are just as capable as Mangano, Musk, Zuckerberg and Branson of bringing positive change to the world and creating a powerful business for yourself in the process.
It boils down to this: Discover your passions. Seek meaningful solutions to the problems you uncover. Help others achieve their goals. Never stop learning. Keep trying. Become a phenomenal problem-solver, and you’re that much closer to entrepreneurial success.
Ryan Robinson contributed to the writing and research in this article.