Solving Problems versus Selling Products

Does your company solve a problem or sell a product? When times are good, the two missions may appear the same, but when times are hard, differences will become obvious.

The company whose mission it is to solve a problem embraces change, pivots with it, and works toward a future in which their customers have fewer problems. Will their business look the same in ten years? Don’t ask them: they operate like a good defense, responding to the necessities of the surrounding environment surrounding, possibly changing the plan totally.

The company whose mission is to sell a product fights change, because change perturbs the existing market base, and that creates risk. Their goal is to temporarily solve the effects of a problem, not to remove the problem. If you remove the problem entirely, why would anyone need your product? Will their business look the same in ten years? They hope so. That way the product production can be put on autopilot while they grow business by pursuing other products in other areas.

This distinction is important because it is a choice that must be made early on in a company’s growth, but it is one that probably won’t be noticed until much later in your company’s timeline. It’s an abstract decision and a deep one, a decision that will affect your entire company culture.

Intuit, apparently, has chosen to sell a product, as the LA Times reports. California is working on some great options to help its citizens file taxes for free, and Intuit, maker of the TurboTax program, has been spending barrels of money to prevent Californians from getting access to free and easy tax filing services. Intuit has demonstrated that their mission is not to solve the problem of complicated taxes – it is to sell you a product. What will your mission be?