There’s this idea out there among many wannabe business owners that they must come up with the next completely fresh idea to have a great business. Most small businesses succeed because they learn the key is solving problems with effective solutions.

Shows like Shark Tank (which I love) go towards creating this kind of mindset. However, the sharks do a very nice job of bursting the bubbles of anyone who thinks business success is merely about having that great idea.

I ran across this story about a company founded in the ’70s and whose product you have likely seen (especially if you have owned a dog).

It *is*, in fact, about the idea. But the idea was found within the cast-offs of existing vocational work, and there might be something there that sparks an idea for you.

I still think there is something to be said for entrepreneurs. They are the service business owners, the independent retailers, the salespeople, and the franchisee, who look at the stories to understand what made them successful. 

Whether it’s a new product or service line within your existing business, or something brand new, sometimes we need to open our eyes to identify and begin solving problems effectively.

“Every problem has in it the seeds of its solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Joe Markham had a problem.

The three-year-old German Shepherd he’d adopted, Fritz, loved to chew rocks. So much that his teeth were one-third their normal size.

In every other way, Fritz was a wonderful and loving companion. But Markham knew the dog’s one bad habit was endangering his health. So Markham, a partner in a motorcycle shop, encouraged Fritz to try softer substitutes. They tried radiator hoses and motorcycle tires.

But the dog didn’t favor either of these items enough for it to become a rock replacement.

When winter came, the bike shop worked on cars and snowmobiles. One day, Fritz stretched under a workbench, pulled out a part from a car, and trotted over to Markham, where the dog dropped the part on Markham’s foot. This rubber-knobbed gizmo was a prize — and it was love at first bite. Fritz forgot his beloved rocks. His new obsession had customers asking what kind of toy made the dog joyful.

That’s when Markham speculated that if his dog loved this type of rubber so much, other dogs would too.

And so began a long journey of prototypes, rejections, manufacturing woes, ridicule, and late-night commercial slots. But Markham persevered because he knew his real customers — the furry, four-legged ones — would prove him right.

Today Markham’s toy, the Kong, has surpassed sales of 50 million products — almost one for every dog in America. And my take is that while perseverance played a role in his success, the real secret was that he stayed focused on finding a fun, effective solution to a common problem. Like  Markham, his small business succeeded because he learned the key is solving problems with effective solutions.

So I ask you, business owners…

Where can YOU find these hidden answers to common problems your customers face? It doesn’t have to involve some witty, new invention — it can simply serve a felt need effectively and well.

But those problems ARE out there. And the answer might very well be sitting in your cast-offs.

Feel very free to forward this article to a Douglas County business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance — or send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for families and business owners. 


Michael A Hurdle
(720) 828-6218

Tax Time CPAs