Find the Pain

"Find the pain."

This was the business advice I was given by Mark Fitzgerald of the Sandler Sales Institute in Tampa, Florida in the late 90s.  I wasn’t able to afford the several-thousand-dollar price tag for his courses, but I see he’s still in business.  I’m not surprised.  And I’m glad.

"For what pain is my product or service a pain reliever?"

This is how I’ve reframed the question over time.

And that question is different from this statement and question:  "I’ve got a new idea.  How can I turn it into a business?"

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Executive 2007 Report (.pdf) from the London Business School, "In all countries, most businesses offer products or services that are not new to most customers, while only a small fraction claims that what they offer is new to all customers…Early-stage entrepreneurs are more likely than established business owner-managers to claim they offer innovative products and face few competitors."

Translation:  Just because I think I have a new idea and only a few competitors doesn’t mean I have an idea that will sell, i.e. relieve the pain or solve a problem for my potential customer.  My idea might not make a successful business.

I have been thinking about Dan Gordon’s advice to entrepreneurs in Inside VT KnowledgeWorks:  "Make something that people or businesses want.  Not that they should want, but that they do want."

My father, Robert Giles, left this comment:  "That leaves out the very successful Hula Hoop. It leaves out almost all really new products, inventions, and ideas."

For what pain is a Hula Hoop a pain reliever?

Freud writes that life is about two things:  love and work.

Without love, I am in a state of pain.  With the socially acceptable hip-swaying a hula-hoop offers, I might attract admirers.  Admiration might lead to love.  Pain relieved.

Hula Hoops sold 25 million in 4 months.

Gotta find that pain.


I applied the "Find the pain" theory to a few member companies of business accelerator VT KnowledgeWorks:



How it relieves the pain

VT KnowledgeWorks Company

Poisoned water

Portable water treatment systems

Removes toxicity


Poisoned water


Monitors water quality

Biological Monitoring

Fear of drowning

Friction Stir Fabrication (patent pending)

Adheres anti-corrosive coating so ship won’t sink!

Schultz-Creehan Holdings

Unsafe military forays

Autonomous vehicle

Sends unmanned vehicles into dangerous territory


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