No matter where you are in business -- from the first inkling of an idea to managing a billion-dollar operation -- you have a puzzling challenge that you're trying to solve. No matter how successful any of us get, we are inevitably doomed to confront yet the next challenge in a never-ending series of problems (that is, of course, until that blessed day when we sell...and then have to figure out how to spend all that money!).
But what if your challenges were actually opportunities hidden in disguise -- opportunities that, if correctly exploited, could give you not only the solution you were seeking, but also a brand new avenue for ensuring that you'll never have to face another challenge alone?
That's exactly what the CEO of Likeable Media and podcaster of "All The Social Ladies," Carrie Kerpen, did, whose new book, Work It: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business, chronicles what she learned after she developed a key habit to solve her biggest business challenges.
Back in 2011, she took over as CEO for a company she had founded with her husband. With a big growth challenge on her hands, she turned to an unlikely solution: she took some attention away from her business, and started a podcast.
For most entrepreneurs, adding to their daily burden by building a new platform sounds crazy. But Kerpen figured that women in leadership positions all around the world had exactly the experience she needed to help her figure out how she could develop a smart solution to her growth dilemma.
What she might not have accounted for is just how valuable starting the habit of regular podcasting would end up being to her business.
If you're confronting some big business challenges, here are 3 reasons why you should consider starting a new habit of working on your own platform and crowdsourcing your solution.
1. You won't just solve your problem; you'll build your network and net worth.
The powerful women who agreed to be on Kerpen's podcast taught her how to be an authentic leader and gave her innumerable ways to solve her growth challenges.
But perhaps more importantly, they provided her with even more introductions to extraordinary women, and Kerpen built an invaluable network by continuing to tell the stories of others while simultaneously helping herself learn game-changing insights.
Over time, Kerpen says the podcast helped her double the size of her business and opened up new opportunities, like writing her book.
2. You'll get access like a true thought leader in your industry.
When she was interviewing guests on her podcast, Kerpen says, "I didn't end with 'How are you going to do business with me now.' Instead, it was always, 'How can I help you?'"
That attitude -- coupled with a meaningful platform for helping those women gain exposure -- broke down the typical gatekeeper barriers we all encounter and immediately gained Kerpen the clout she needed to establish a value exchange.
If you want to be a true thought leader in your industry, you'll have to develop the same habits as thought leaders do. That typically means having a key platform -- like a podcast -- that allows you to offer something valuable and set yourself up to get value in return from the people who can help you.
3. You'll get all the solutions you could ask for, as long as you stay authentic to your mission.
The reason podcasting worked for Kerpen is that she had a genuine curiosity to learn from her interviewees because she honestly had a big business challenge to solve.
That authenticity surely impacted her interviewees and helped her build meaningful relationships. But her genuine need to solve a challenge also served as powerful motivation to keep up what was essentially an unpaid job.
If you're going to start a podcast, blog or YouTube channel to build a platform, recognize that those outlets take time and energy to maintain. But, if you're solving your greatest challenge anyway, that will keep you motivated to keep up your habit once you start.
Still in doubt? Consider that not every problem can be solved head-on.
Sometimes the worst thing we entrepreneurs can do is to stare at a problem for too long.
In fact, the very first article I wrote for Inc. talked about how sometimes the best way to solve a challenge is to completely ignore it, opting instead to spend time connecting with others, starting a new side project or doing any other activity that gives your brain a chance to freshen its perspective.
I myself have used the same strategy as Kerpen, except that my platform is writing and speaking. And although I admit the time and energy spent on those activities takes me away from my work and family life, I will confidently tell you that the opportunities that platform-building have given me will forever outweigh any amount of energy I've spent building those platforms in the first place.
So, what's your greatest challenge this year?
If you're tempted to simply go find an answer, consider building an entire platform to give yourself a steady stream of perspectives that will help you both with this problem and with whatever comes next.