It’s a common misconception that entrepreneurship is about launching a successful business. Sure, that’s part of it. But the entrepreneurial journey is really about creating something to solve a problem. And to determine if you’re going to be able to solve that problem effectively, you have to ask yourself the right questions.
On a recent volume of Psychology of Entrepreneurship, I sat down with self-made billionaire Naveen Jain. Yes, you read that correctly. Billionaire. But I have to tell you, Naveen is one of the most laid-back, down to earth, chill guys I have ever met. It felt like just grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend.
Naveen has created seven different successful companies. And they all do extraordinary things for people all over the world. His latest venture, Viome, is an incredibly innovative company that wants to “make illness optional”. Viome offers unique testing that measures your unique gut microbiome, mitochondria and human immune cell function. Then with your individual test results, they can recommend exact nutritional advice to improve your health.
Born and raised in India in poverty, Naveen is firm on remembering your roots, but not letting it define you. “For me, where you come from, you should never forget,” he says. “But, it doesn’t define what you become. It tells you who you were, and you should never forget that.”
Solving a Problem
Naveen considers himself a natural entrepreneur, but not because he wanted to make money. He wanted to solve problems. He wanted to help the people around him and people all over the world. That’s what entrepreneurship is, really. It’s about identifying a problem and figuring out how to solve it in a way that hasn’t been done before. Because as Naveen says,
“Your success will never be defined by how much money you have in the bank. Your success will be defined by how many lives you improve.”
So once you’ve identified the problem you want to solve, how do you know if it’s worth it to tackle? Well, Naveen says “It’s not about having all the right answers, it’s about asking all the right questions.” So what questions do you ask? There are three specific questions Naveen says you have to ask yourself before moving ahead.
The first question is “Why this?”. What is it about this particular problem that compels you to solve? This should have nothing to do with the amount of money you think you can make solving it. It should have to do with the people you can help by solving it. You may think,” Well, I’m passionate about this subject, so I’m going to make a business around this thing.” But that’s not enough. Naveen says passion isn’t enough. You have to be obsessive. You have to wake up in the morning obsessively wondering how to solve this problem. You have to go to bed thinking about it. Once you’ve gotten to that point, then yes, you’ve probably found your problem to solve.
What has happened in the last year that makes you think now is the right time to solve this problem? What’s going to happen in the next couple of years. Are you ready for this? All these questions should help you pinpoint if the present is the time to embark on this journey. Of course, we all know there’s no perfect time for anything. So waiting around till the universe aligns perfectly shouldn’t be an option. Naveen’s point is it’s important to not only assess the present but also envision the future.
Is your idea something that you can sustain into the foreseeable future? Will it work from where you currently are, or will you have to relocate? All these questions will help you get to the answer to “Why now?”.
This isn’t a question to make you start doubting yourself or your abilities. The purpose of asking “Why me?” is to determine what makes your question different from all the other questions around the subject. For example, when Naveen started Viome, he knew others were asking how to use nutrition and genetics to solve the problem of chronic disease. But no one was asking, “How can we individualise this? How can we focus on specific gene expressions and not the gene themselves?” That individualisation is what makes Viome different from other companies looking to solve the problem of chronic disease.
This can’t be some drop in the pan idea. “The only way to create a long-term sustainable enterprise is to actually help people,” Naveen says. So if your questions are about how to solve your own problems, and not the problems of others, you’re not there yet.
Author: Kaili Bonnyman
Kaili is the Queen of Audio at Must Amplify.