How to Turn a Problem Into a Viable Business Idea

by | Product

Group of people in a business meeting

A viable business idea has a long road before it becomes a product or service. Therefore, the best way to generate successful startup ideas is to start by identifying a problem and pinpointing a solution. However, it’s important to keep in mind that determining a solution doesn’t necessarily mean it’s viable in the market. 

What Is a Viable Business Idea?

A viable business idea is an idea someone thought of for a business that has the potential opportunity to be successful. A viable business generates profit by bringing in enough revenue to outweigh the cost of running it.

In order to get from idea to business, there are plenty of things that need to happen, which we’ll cover soon. But for now, keep in the back of your mind that successful companies continue to be successful because they solve a problem for their customers.

How to Get a Viable Business Idea

Say you want to start your own business but aren’t sure where to begin. In the next section, we will walk you through steps that’ll help you ideate a concept and boost its chance of success.

Keep in mind this formula: your passions + our skillset + a need = a viable business idea.

Step 1: What Are Your Interests?

The first thing you should do is create a list of all the things that currently interest you. Everything that you find fun and enjoyable, from playing with your dog to your sudden interest in hydroponics—write it all down onto a list.

You don’t want to start a business with something you’re not interested in just because you think it’ll make you money. If you don’t find it interesting, then it’ll be easy for you to put things off and procrastinate until everything falls apart around you.

Take a couple of days and make this important list. Some interests may jump out at you, while others may creep up from your subconscious. Then organize it as you wish. One idea is using small post-it notes and sticking them to your wall as they come, or keeping a running list of notes on your phone. You’ll be surprised to realize that the best ideas come when you don’t expect them.

Step 2: Examine Your Experience

Now it’s time for another round of brainstorming. Go ahead and start another wall with sticky notes on your knowledge, talents, and experience.

It doesn’t have to be work or school-related experience. It could be something you know or do for fun. Your experience list can even go back to things you learned as a kid. Whatever it is, set a timer and get to it.

Step 3: Match Up Interest and Experience

The best way to make sure your business idea works out is to match the areas of interest to the experience. Then, once you’ve organized both your interests and expertise, see if there’s any overlap that you can uncover and use that to help you create your business idea.

Once you’ve identified what you’re interested in and what your talents are, the final part of the puzzle can come together—figuring out whether they’re sound and viable business ideas.

Characteristics of Viable Business Ideas

A viable business idea is the next stepping stone after coming up with your list of business ideas. Unfortunately, many businesses have good ideas but fail to implement a strong business plan to make these ideas work. That’s why so many businesses fail within their first year.

The way to make sure your business idea is solid is through a checklist of characteristics that ensures your idea will stand the test of time and the tumultuous market. 

  • Scalable: Your idea should be able to double its revenue reasonably easily without needing to double your input or costs to generate that extra revenue.
  • Solves a Problem: The only way to get people interested in your business idea is to solve a legitimate problem people have. There are several ways you can go about validating a problem but regardless of which one you choose, you must ensure that this is in fact a significant problem to a large enough group of people.
  • Is Intuitive: Another thing that you need to take into account is how much people will like the solution to the problem they’re having. Your solution needs to be easy to understand and feel like it’s tailored to your customers.
  • Market Growth: Your business idea needs to get rooted in a market that has continuous growth. Those markets that don’t grow have reached saturation point, and it will be challenging to get your idea off the ground and profitable.
  • Sustainable: When it comes to business sustainability, you need to have a vision. Your vision needs to be where you want your business to be in five years, so the day-to-day stuff doesn’t get too tricky that you want to quit.
  • Profitable: A financial projection is a way to estimate how long it will take a business to break even and then become prosperous. Typically if it takes longer than three years to become profitable, then implementing a new business idea is a better bet.
  • Unique: You can’t create something that’s already out there. It needs to be different enough to get customers engaged with your product. Think of other products in your space and find something that they can’t do and that you can do really well. For example, Shopify is known for its excellent customer service with 24/7 support, a live chat, and a Help Center. In addition to fast responses through their social channels. 

How to Turn Your Idea Into an Opportunity

People want a product that does something for them. Even something as simple as a fidget spinner has a solution to people’s need for something to do with their hands.

If you focus on a problem to solve, not only will it be easier to build a sustainable business around it, but it will help you gain momentum and grow faster. In general, your solution is supposed to solve either a time or money challenge. Solving either of these two issues will get people to take notice of your business.

  • Time spent: With so much on our plates and little time to do it, most people will be willing to pay money for something that gives them time back. Take housekeeping as an example. People will pay for someone else to clean their house, so they don’t have to– freeing up time for other things.
  • Money spent: While people tend to find value in a good bargain, they find a greater benefit in the return than the initial expense. In the B2B space, a company may spend money on a product because they expect a significant return on investment. They may even outsource that project because doing it in-house would cost even more than outsourcing would. Keep in mind that the benefit doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary. When the benefit outweighs the price in the mind of your customers, they are likely to buy your product. 

To figure out these problems, you need to get out into the world and start listening to see if any of the issues people talk about are on your list of business ideas. There are a couple of ways to do just that.

The Job Search Method

The job search method is a great way to source problems. After all, if there are open spots in companies, they must need educated and experienced individuals to fill those roles. The fact that they can’t or are having trouble doing so as it is, shows a problem that needs fixing.

If you have a business idea that focuses on one industry or one job in particular, then you can easily determine where you can fit this idea into a gap in the market. Again, be very thorough when looking through job details and responsibilities so you can really pinpoint the exact problem your business idea is attempting to solve.

For example, when looking to branch into SaaS (Software as a Service), you could take the job responsibilities and think of ways in which you could add management software to it. You just might find yourself in front of a possible business idea.

The App Store Search

If there is a problem, you’d be right to bet that there’s an app for it. With technology continuing to ramp up and 47% of American smartphone users saying they couldn’t live without their mobile device, this has been a popular space for entrepreneurs to build solutions for a number of years.

The easiest way to locate a problem using the app store is to search within a category for an app similar to something you want your business to do and then look for those 1-star reviews. 

Spend time paying attention to these reviews, as they showcase customer pain points with an app that’s similar to what you want. You can use these reviews to improve upon your business idea or get inspired to take it in a different direction altogether.

How to Build a Viable Business Idea

Now that you have gone through the steps to create a business idea that works for you and has a market, it’s time to turn that idea into a business plan. If you’ve been documenting your findings throughout the discovery process, you’ll have a good starting point for this step.

Define the Problem You Want to Solve

Write down the problem you want to solve and keep it with you. Read it before you start working on your viable business idea. Then, when you finish, reread it. If anything you noted doesn’t fit the problem’s parameters, strike it from your startup business ideas list.

Also, don’t back yourself into a corner in thinking that your initial solution is the correct solution. You may find that the best way to solve the problem you defined is completely different from the one you started with– and that’s okay! Be flexible and realize that no matter what stage you’re in, there’s always room for improvement. 

Keep the Solution Simple

In elementary school, we learn the KISS method (Keep it Simple, Stupid). That’s precisely what you need to do when it comes to finding the solution. Keep it simple and down to the bare bones to start with, so you aren’t throwing a ton of resources at your unique business ideas.

When it comes down to it, you should answer three questions about your product or service’s solution:

  • Is there a problem to solve?
  • Is that problem significant enough to develop this product/service?
  • Can this product/service solve the problem?

Decide on Your Features

Now it’s time to decide on the core features of your product or service. First, you need to create a list of features you must have, what it should have, what features you could add to round it out, and the features it absolutely will not have.

Once you complete this process, go back to the problem you defined and make sure everything matches up to solve that problem. If not, start rearranging.

Building Your Product/Service

Entrepreneurs out there go on and on about product or service efficiency. You need to understand that efficiency is all well and good for a fully kitted-out product or service. 

But you are just starting. You are just getting this going and don’t need to be efficient yet. The goal is to get a working prototype out into the world. Efficiency can come later with more time and experience under your belt.

Making Sure Your Viable Business Idea Works

Business ideas come in all shapes and sizes, at all times of the day. But how do you know if they’re good ones? Whether it’s a B2B idea for a SaaS app or something more B2C unique, business ideas need to be validated to make sure there is a market for them.

This means coming up with a unique business plan and implementing certain vital aspects to make sure your business runs smoothly and starts generating the desired buzz around customers.

How Are You Different From the Competition?

You already know that your viable business idea needs to solve a problem for people to want it, but how are you different from the competition? What makes you uniquely suited to solve the problem your potential customers face?

Even if you think your idea is completely original, you will still have to compete with others for customers’ attention and ultimately, money. Take a deep dive into who your competition is and how you can stand out from them. Consider alternatives and ask yourself, how do potential customers solve this problem today? What do they use, buy, or do that your product will make up for?

If you can’t find any competition, then you need to go back and make sure you have a viable problem to solve because no competition means no market and no money.

Your Sales Pitch

This isn’t going out and pitching to potential investors or customers. You need to create your sales pitch first and then practice it until it feels natural. You need to focus on the words you plan to use and they need to be easy to understand.

If your customers are a bunch of entrepreneurs, then you’d talk to them in terms of money and the opportunity they would miss out on. However, if your customer is moms with young children, you’d probably like to take a different approach.

Figure out where they spend time online to get a feel for how they speak and go from there. Once you have what you want to say, take a bit of time to practice until it feels natural, but don’t overdo it.

Your Website

Everyone is online, and you should be too. Your website doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to be easy to navigate and use the same language you use in your sales pitch.

A website makes you easier to find and simpler to validate when customers go looking to make sure you’re a legitimate business. You can also use it to get email addresses from people to help build your potential customer base.

Cold Emails

Once you get people starting to sign up, you can talk to them and build a rapport. If you don’t have that base, you can always use cold emailing as an effective strategy.

Cold emailing is sending a concise sales pitch about your product or service to people you think could benefit from your business idea and getting them to set up a meeting with you.

For those of you in the B2B space, leverage social channels like Linkedin or Facebook groups to find people you want to send your cold emails to. 

Getting Those Meetings

When it comes to booking a meeting, you want a simple form in place, so you know when to call. Calendly is a great way to get those set up. You just set up available times and then send people the link to pick a time slot.

Platforms like this help you avoid having to go back and forth through email trying to find a good time to meet, which could make people lose interest and decide it’s not worth the time and effort to book a meeting with you.

Sealing the Deal

Once you get on the call, you’ll go through your sales pitch and answer any questions they might have. You should know your product well enough to know what questions a potential customer might ask about it.

The last question they will ask you is the price. Let them know concisely, don’t go into detail. Don’t negotiate, don’t haggle. You want to look and sound confident. If they hem and haw and don’t go for it, they weren’t the right person to target with your product.

In Conclusion

Now you know how you turn a problem into a viable business idea and get it off the ground. But these business ideas can end up costing more time and resources than you can manage, which is why partnering with an investor can help get your unique business idea off the ground.

If you have a SaaS or digital business idea, submit your concept to Harmony Venture Labs and co-found your company with our team of experts in marketing, design, product, and growth.