SFR 218: Finding Your Core Problem – Stephen Larsen

SFR 218: Finding Your Core Problem

Feb 19th, 2019 anchorwave

Easily, one of the biggest hurdles that people have to overcome right from the start is knowing what their business value will be.

Business value is measured in many ways, but starts with knowing the big problem you solve…

Today, I’m gonna teach you about My Core Problem Planner.

When I was young, I did a lot of backpacking with my Dad. He grew up on a farm and loves the outdoors, my whole family loves the outdoors.

We’d go camp out by creeks and streams and play in them.


Canoeing and growing business

Well, I remember coming back from one campout, I don’t remember how we got on the topic, but my dad told me that MOST people will NOT actually do a lot of the things that they wanna do life because rather than go get them, they’ll wait for things to come to them…

It was a father-son moment that had a BIG impact on my brain. My Dad said:

“Look, Stephen, most people go through life as if they’re in a canoe without a paddle. They’re in a very slow moving river and because it’s moving they feel progress in their life… and so they won’t pick up the oar and start paddling.”

He told me:

“Most people will never pick up the oar that’s already in the canoe and use it to start pushing in the direction they wanna to go.

Business problem solving

Most people just wait for the current of life to take them different places. They will change because life is change, and they’ll progress because life happens to them…

But very few are actually willing to pick up the freaking oar and do something with it.”

However, some people who DON’T even have an oar will get creative and grab a branch as they’re floating down the river and break it off and use it until they can find an oar or make one.”

That analogy has stuck in my head for a long time because it’s fascinating.

Very few people in this life are willing to actually pick up the oar and start moving.


Are you business problem solving

So when you think about the amount of competition that’s out there, it’s really it’s NOT me versus EVERYONE. It’s me versus the 20% of humanity who are actually trying to do stuff with their life… the people who are actually picking up the paddle!

Even then, MOST people don’t understand anything about what I’m talking about…

Most people aren't growing business

So it’s me versus maybe 10% of humanity… MOST of whom are NOT willing to experience the personal growth that’s needed to actually launch stuff.

If you think about it this way, you’ll understand that the competition is really NOT very high… and that showing up is half the battle.


One of the biggest questions people ask when I’m coaching is:

“Stephen, I’ve got an idea… do you think this is the idea I should build a business around? Do you think this is where I should focus? I’m gonna go solve this. I’m gonna go do this. I’m gonna create this kinda value.”

The challenge is that we try to solve too many things at once.

Too much business problem solving

The best businesses solve one major problem… and that’s it.

One of my favorite books is called Play Bigger. It teaches that it’s not about going out and saying I have the best solution, ’cause everybody’s saying that…

It’s about going out and saying, I can describe the problem that you are experiencing the best.

You lead with the problem NOT the solution.

Steven Larsen business problem solving

If you watch a lot of the things that I do, that’s what I do. I read that book, and I was like, “What’s up!”

It’s all about being able to evangelize the problem that you solve and being able to describe it better than everybody else.

The book teaches that if you’re gonna create a business, you need to be able to articulate and teach the problem better than anyone else who’s your competitor.

I love that book and a lot of you guys will probably go read it now 😉


The basic premise of Play Bigger is that whoever articulates the problem the best; it’s also assumed that that person has the best solution.

So if you’re like, “Man, Stephen I’m gonna go solve a problem. I’m gonna go do this… I’m gonna do that…”

Steven Larsen valuing a business


I need you to look me in the eye and say, “Stephen, this is the problem that I’m solving,” and you need to be able to explain it so a third grader would be able to understand. *SERIOUSLY*

In the Army, they taught everything at a third-grade level… which was mind-numbing sometimes.. because that’s the average education level of most people.

Third grade level business problem solving

So, here’s what you need to do…

You need to be able to articulate at a third-grade level, the one problem that your business solves better than the rest of your competition BEFORE you ever even get into the solution!

*HEAR ME* I didn’t say two problems, or three…ONE PROBLEM.

“Here’s what I solve… and this is the actual problem.”

NOT the solution, THE issue.

You don’t need to worry about your stack,(“First you’re gonna get this and this and this….” ), I’m not even talking about any of that.

That stuff will almost nearly take care of itself if you’re the best at describing the problem to a market.


During the last OfferMind, one of the major things I wanted people to be able to work on was the core problem that they solve.

If you go to you can join the waiting list for the next one. We’re still figuring out a few of the dates, but I’d love to see you there. I’m trying to get some very famous people to keynote, and we’re just playing with some dates.

Steven Larsen OfferMind

There’s a great book I love called Rework. It teaches:

  • Can you have a hotdog stand without relish? Yeah, absolutely.
  • Can you have a hotdog stand without sodas and drinks? Absolutely!
  • You can (technically) have a hotdog stand without hotdog buns.


Valuing a business

You can’t have a hotdog stand without a hotdog… right?

If you’re thinking, “…where’s this going?”

What I love about this example is that it teaches that there’s:

A core to every single one of our businesses and we must be able to know what that core is.

You need to be able to say:

“Hey, look, I’m gonna focus 80% of my attention on the core revenue generating activity in my business.”

…But that means NOTHING if it’s NOT solving the core problem.


Some people call it the purple offer, (I called it that for a little bit too), but the real name I’ve given it is “Your Core Offer.”


Here it is…

Your core offer

  • A Core Problem = which you should be able to articulate better than EVERYBODY else.
  • A Core Solution = the actual core of your offer.

These two separate things are the core of your business. The rest of the things in the value ladder are expansions and contractions on the exact same idea.

I want you guys to think through your core problem.

I’m gonna walk you through my process as I did it at OfferMind. Grab a pen and paper because I’m gonna help you find:

The ONE problem to build your business around. The ONE problem to lead within your marketing message.

Your core problem


It’s not that you can’t help in other areas, but there’s one core problem you need to solve. *Just one*

  1. I’m gonna list out all these problems.
  2. I’m gonna rank them on how well can I evangelize that problem.
  3. What is the likely revenue of that problem if I solve it?
  4. How many customers are there likely to be from that red ocean who’d be interested in coming over to a blue if I was to articulate that problem the best?
  5. Are people seeing this problem easily? (If they aren’t, that’s not a bad thing… you can’t unsee a problem once I’ve seen it.)


Find your core problem

  • I didn’t realize how much of a problem it was to go pick up food until Ubereats came out. You know what I’m saying? (That’s one of the stories in Play Bigger)
  • I didn’t realize how much of an issue it was for me to have to stand out on a sidewalk and raise my hand out for a taxi until Uber came out.

Uber articulated the problem that we didn’t know we had.

That’s one of the major keys to choosing the core problem that you solve.

What I’m trying to do is help you understand that there are a few key pillars that will give you clarity in your business… so that you can move forward and say:

  • This is what I solve.
  • This is the problem.
  • This is the core of my business.
  • I know exactly who I’m talking to and who I’m NOT talking to.
  • These are the price points that they love.

So that you can actually have a successful business.

I spent the first several years running around trying stuff like a headless chicken. I couldn’t tell you what I did…

Steven Larsen's business problem solving

I couldn’t tell you what problem I was solving. There was just crazy noise!

If you don’t know the problem you’re solving … if you don’t know what model you’re following … and if you’re not finding ways to increase your speed

That’s the formula for noise in your head.


There’s a book called The Innovator’s Dilemma which says:

The Innovator's Dilemma

Markets that do not exist cannot be analyzed.

If I’m creating a blue ocean, how can I design every element of a blue ocean? I can’t. It doesn’t exist!

So when people are like, “I’m gonna make this. I’m gonna make this. My new opportunities gonna be this. My product’s this. My business is gonna be this.”

I’m like, “You’re guessing. YOU don’t represent your market.”

Suppliers and customers must discover them together.

So there’s an element of design by listening to the market, and there’s an element of this of doing it on your own.


You can’t know how to make a blue out of your own head. That’s why I say that you’ve gotta understand this is way easier when you just take the decision making out of your own head and get past your opinions.

Growing business

Not only are the market applications for disruptive technologies unknown at the time of their development, they are unknowable.

If it’s based on your own opinion, don’t sell it.

You’ve gotta understand the core problem that you solve.

If you can articulate the problem well, then people assume that you know how to solve it.

Understand the core problem you solve


  • An Innovator’s Dilemma: Design the core offer with the customer. I’m NOT gonna design it on my own. I’ll design the offer with the customer.
  • Play Bigger says: Articulate the problem better than anyone else and it’s assumed you have the best solution.

You can use these two principles to help build your Blue Ocean Scaffolding.

Blue ocean scaffolding business problem solving

Let me introduce you to…


First, I need you to understand that there is a core problem that you will be solving.

There are multiple kinds of offer creation. Most people know me for my purple offer creation method, but there are actually several ways to create an offer…

But the one everyone should be focusing on first is what I call The Core Offer. It’s an offer creation method where you bring your dream customers along with you, and they help you make and birth a blue ocean.

In order to make a Core Offer, we need to solve a Core Problem.

The journey starts with YOU understanding the problem that you solve.

To do this, I use my Core Problem Planner:

Core problem planner

Until you understand what you’re solving it doesn’t matter what you create.

If you’re intimately understanding the person’s brain and the objections that they have. (Vehicle, Internal External), then you’ll start to see the problems.

You’ll know it’s a problem because it’ll be a problem. However…

Not all problems are created equal.


You use the Core Problem Planner to help you rank problems. At this stage, I’m looking for a problem that fits several criteria and this is one of the easiest ways for you to actually create a Blue Ocean.

Don’t try and solve every problem your customers have. You’re gonna die…

I’m NOT trying to solve all problems. I’m trying to solve a core problem with a core offer.

We’re gonna figure out the core problem and make an offer and a solution just for that ONE problem.

Here’s how it works:


The core problem planner

Does your dream red ocean customer have a problem with (identify your own problems here):

  • Traffic.
  • The actual Funnel.
  • The Offer.
  • Marketing.
  • Publishing.

When you’ve identified those problems, i.e,

  • The red ocean sucks at this…
  • The red ocean problem is…
  • The red ocean customer can’t …

You move on to…


The core solution planner

Start brainstorming how could you solve those problems?

Figure out creative ways that you could actually, truly solve those problems.

This is how I figure out what to make… and what’s secure and lucrative at the same time.


Your core problem planner

Third row down, I’m ranking my ability to evangelize the problem.

This is a core piece moving forward…

If you have a hard time explaining the problem that you solve, people are NOT gonna assume you have the solution.

So I wanna rank which of the red ocean problems I discovered is the easiest for me to evangelize about… that could be on my podcast or when I’m talking to people.

If I’m being interviewed by other people and they’re like, “What is it you do?” And I’m like, “BAM!” That’s exactly it.

I’m looking for something that’s easy for me to put on a banner, or put on a T-shirt.

Because *REMEMBER*…

Not all problems are created equal

NOT all problems are created equal.

I’m not trying to solve all the problems; just the one core true legitimate issue that they have that matches my ability to actually go and evangelize about it.


Does your core problem solve health, wealth or relationships

Moving to the final row, I’m looking to see if solving my Core Problem will deliver Health, Wealth, or Relationships in a BIG way.

Health, Wealth, or Relationships is the product. My product’s NOT the product. Health, Wealth or Relationships are the things that your dream customer actually want the most.


Business problem solving magic combination

In order to pick the ONE the Red Ocean Problem that I’m gonna solve, I look for the cool combination of:

  1. Solving the problem
  2. My ability to evangelize about the it.
  3. Delivers health/wealth/happiness in a BIG way

I’m looking for a core problem to solve that hits these multiple criteria.

For years, I walked around thinking, “What do I sell? What do I sell? What do I sell? What do I sell?”

Then I switched to, “Who do I wanna serve? Who do I wanna serve? Who do I wanna serve? Who do I wanna serve?”

Then it was what are the problems? Like “Whoa, they have a lot of problems.”

I was like which problem do I wanna go attack? Which problem do I wanna attach myself to?

But now I know that NOT all problems are created equal, so then this is how I actually started figuring out what’d be good for me to sell.

Core problems valuing a business

Until Next Time… Viva Capitalist Pigs!

The biggest question I struggled with for years and easily the biggest question I’m asked by the thousands of people I’ve coached in this process is, “Stephen, what should I sell?”

If you’ve been listening to my podcast you have probably had that question, right?

After thousands of coaching students and sheer obsession in the game, I started noticing that there was a strong but untaught pattern of how I was selling successfully and over and over again.

It honestly took me about 17 business tries or failures honestly to figure this out and to get one right. Since then though, they’ve pretty much all been winners. So what changed?

What changed? I learned the pattern. I learned the framework.

Secretly for the last nine months, I’ve been working to document my process and refine it even further… and it’s worked very well.

My book will teach you how to design the core offer of your business and a winning sales message that sells it.

Steven Larsen new book

Did you hear what I just said?

That’s a huge claim and I totally get it, but this will help you actually figure out what you sell and how to sell it.

It’s a process I’ve been using now for about three years for myself and my students.

If you wanna learn the framework, this pattern, the formula for yourself, go get my book at It’s free, just cover the shipping, at

The post SFR 218: Finding Your Core Problem appeared first on Sales Funnel Radio Blog.