Roman Ross and I met for breakfast at a truck stop in Dallas. It was a great way for old friends to begin the new year. We like the buffet at the truck stop, having met there for breakfast before. It has good food and lots of variety, all at a reasonable price.
We were greeted by a very gracious server who seated us and brought menus. Roman asked her if there would be a buffet. The server told us the buffet wouldn't be open for about thirty minutes. Or, we could order anything we wanted from the menu. Roman told her we would wait for the buffet. The server brought us coffee. While we waited, we began to discuss the problems of the world, especially the new ones that have unfolded since our last visit.
New Year's Day is always a good time to discuss the topic of change. Change influences options. For many of us baby boomers, change seems to have reduced our options. We are older. For many of us, our problems are health related: vision, mobility, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Perhaps our problem is from our history. We might have issues lingering from earlier in life. We might not have the "right college major". We might have dropped out of college. We migh not have gone to college.
Perhaps our problem is from our present. We are getting a divorce. We don't have a job. Our industry that we have worked in all our life is dead, downsized, or outsourced. Our car isn't running.
The key to our future is recognizing and understanding problems. This is not about problems in the since of our personal sources of vexation and perplexity. We must understand the problems of people around us. We must think of problems in the sense of being a question raised for consideration or a solution.
All around us, people have problems that require solutions. People are eager to find solutions to their problems and will look upon you as a hero if you can show them effective solutions. They will pay you to help them find solutions when they don't know how to solve their problems.
Just as I was sharing my point about the word "problems" having two definitions, I noticed the servers were opening the buffet. Before I could suggest to Roman that we head over, I realized that people were getting up all over the restaurant. They were making their way to the buffet in mass.
Roman and I just sat and drank a bit more coffee. We watched the people serving themselves. The buffet became our case study on solving problems of people around us. We saw how the restaurant manager became the hero for 25 - 30 people by opening the buffet...by providing what the people wanted.
Though it was not obvious when we first arrived, it looked like nearly everyone in the restaurant was waiting for the buffet. Presumaby, we were all hungry. We could have ordered from the menu pretty much anything that we would have taken from the buffet. But we all wanted the buffet.
The solution to our hunger problem was not just food, but food delivered in a special way. The buffet gave us a package with options under our control. We could have what we wanted, with any combination we wanted, and as much as we wanted. As one of the hamburger commercials promises, we could have it "OUR WAY" and we had control of the maximum price.
Having once been a restaurant owner, I enjoy referring to delivering your product or service in such a special way as your "special sauce". YOUR special sauce is what makes your solution different and...to the taste of your customer. A hamburger can be a commodity like a light bulb if there is no way to tell one from another. A hamburger becomes special when your special sauce gives the hamburger a taste that makes your customer drive across town...to get a hamburger that tastes exactly the way they want it to taste.
So the way we create opportunities or options in our future is not to study the problems that limit us. Success is in studying the problems limiting those around us. We want to offer solutions to their problems. Our problems must have our "special sauce"...the way that not only fills their hunger, but in a way exactly according to their taste. Our special sauce makes it impossible for anyone else to solve their problem our way. Your problem is to find solutions to things vexing and frustrating those around you. The solutions to the problems of others are your doorway to new opportunities.
So, baby boomer entrepreneur, look around and discover the problems of health, the problems of the past, and the problems of the present...the problems that limit and vex those around you. Be the leader in solving a problem or some aspect of the problem, so you can help those around you. We call that a niche. What problem of others will you adopt for the purpose of finding solutions? To whom will you be a hero? So, baby boomer entrepreneur, what is your problem?
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