01 May How to Problem Solve—the Key Ingredient to Any Successful Startup
All businesses usually begin with a dream. Founders either have an idea or set out to solve a problem, with each path guided by their entrepreneurial spirit. For Michael Wystrach, the founder of Freshly, it was seeking a solution for healthy, convenient eating at an affordable price that pressed him into starting his venture.
During an interview with Mike Dillard on the Self Made Man podcast, Wystrach talked about how his company began, its early challenges, and how he was able to overcome them and become successful. It started when Wystrach was living in New York as an investment banker and discovered his weight had ballooned by more than 25 pounds. He seemingly tried everything to fix his own problem of trying to get healthy. He worked out longer and harder. He cut back on his preference of eating take-out. And he sought out the advice of an old family friend—a doctor that advised him his weight gain mostly had to do with his eating habits. Fortunately for Wystrach, eating take-out had more to do with convenience and his desire not to cook than affection for unhealthy choices. But he also lacked a passion or desire for preparing his own meals. So he decided the best way to solve his problem was to take himself out of the equation and hire a private chef. He would then know when and where his food was purchased, as well as how it was prepared, ensuring a nutritious result.
Though he was able to solve his own problem, Wystrach concluded that many others must suffer from the same issue of finding healthy meal options that were convenient and affordable. By recognizing that his dilemma wasn’t original, he was able to take his passion for getting healthy and create a business around it. The result was Freshly.
During the process of building, managing and expanding Freshly, Wystrach demonstrated a unique level of creativity in dealing with issues that arose, finding a way to figure them out and move forward. This attribute of problem solving, along with a significant level of perseverance, is what any entrepreneur needs to compete.
Solve Your Own Problem
Wystrach left New York and moved to Phoenix before he founded Freshly. He was looking to make a career change before he settled on starting his own business. This is important because the approach he took was not to build an idea he had, but rather to solve a problem. Starting a venture by chasing a problem rather than an idea is the clearer path. Plus, it prepares you for what lies ahead in scaling a business, which is to consistently overcome obstacles.
Apply Existing Solutions
Michael Wystrach and his partner had been doing in-person deliveries when Freshly first started, and they were looking for a better option. He called FedEx early on to find out about shipping costs and logistics. They cold called area representatives until they finally got someone to take them seriously. Wystrach’s view on delivery was to let the experts handle it, taking his company out of the equation to concentrate on food.
“Everything starts with cold calling,” says Wystrach. Realize that inventing a new business takes a tremendous amount of effort and creativity. By starting off using basic techniques like cold calling, you can quickly gain ground. You might strike out, but with every failure comes a learning opportunity. Perseverance will eventually pay off.
Owning a business requires figuring things out as you go. Diligent preparation should be complemented by flexibility and problem solving skills. But even the best laid plans don’t account for every scenario. One way to counteract unforeseen circumstances is to ask questions.
Rarely do you come upon a step in which no further inquiry is needed. Evaluate by asking questions that highlight the best path to proceed. And don’t be afraid to dive deep. The more complete the questions are, the better the answers will be.
Wystrach asked everyone he knew how Freshly would be able to ship food that needed to be refrigerated. His first solution was using styrofoam. That worked for a while but it was extremely costly. Next, he asked where his company could find it cheaper. His constant questioning brought him to a Canadian styrofoam supplier which saved the organization money. Recently, Wystrach discovered a material made from denim that was the most cost effective solution to shipping refrigerated, fresh food. It was only after asking questions that he was able to solve this issue.
Growing up, most children are surrounded by parents, teachers and other mentors in their life. These adults prepare them for the world through education and life lessons. New entrepreneurs should follow a similar path and seek out mentors or experienced advisors that can guide them on their business journey.
Wystrach found it essential to have advisors and influential board members he could rely on. Their counsel and extended network was invaluable in making the right decisions and opening doors for Freshly.
Founding and running a startup requires a significant amount of time and commitment in order to be successful. Entrepreneurs wear many hats while problem solving in their organizations, expanding both their experience and knowledge base. Michael Wystrach discovered that his personal growth developed as his company swelled, and the dream of running his own business was realized.