I’m obsessed with problems. When I hear someone complain about something I can’t help but to think about a solution, a “better way”. Needless to say that our recent move to France provided a whole new level of exposure to “problems” since complaining about everything and nothing is a French favourite pass-time.
I recently got intrigued by the processes (or rather lake of) of our local driving schools (“auto-écoles“). I had to book some lessons for Rachel so that she could get a good handle of driving manual on the right (right!) side of the road… Anyways… what I assumed would be a painless process turned out to be an annoying back and forth of phone calls.
One driving school never got back to me (didn’t return emails or phone calls). The other school had a person answering the phone but she could not make any bookings since she wasn’t aware of the instructors agenda (?!). An instructor had to call me back so that we could finally agree on a time. The whole process took nearly a week.
The entrepreneur in me thought: Clearly they need an automated booking system that will remove at least two pains: Having to hire someone to sit at a desk to do… well… not much. And free the instructors’ time so that their bookings could automatically be logged and sent to them at the start of the day and they could spend less time on the phone and more time on the road charging for their lessons… Bookings could be neatly ordered for maximum efficiency based on the pick-up and drop off location of students… etc.
Sounded like 10X value to me, very close to the money, and my product mind got all excited 🙂
When Rachel finally got to enjoy her first 2 hours lesson I went to pay (it’s 41 euros (AUD$51) per hour in case you’d like to know…) and handed over my credit card to the instructor lady. Unfortunately she was not able to take cards (Square!) so payments had to be cash only (or the antic checks that nobody uses anymore). So I paid cash… and didn’t get a receipt… That’s when it hit me. A booking system that would keep track of lesson’s times and produce an “e-paper trail” is probably the last thing she’d want. Taxes are high in France and when a business (or the Budget Minister) can find a way to hide revenue from the Tax Office they will happily do so.
So some problems don’t want to be fixed… More exactly what can appear to be a big problem is not necessarily one. And the only way to get more than a feel for this is by getting as close as you can from this suspected problem and talk to the person that actually experiences the “problem” first hand… and know how to listen (that’s another story… ;)).
So my business idea died… So far. I haven’t given up on it just yet and at Rachel’s next lesson tomorrow I’ll have a chat with the instructor and validate/invalidate my hypothesis. This should be interesting since confessing to tax evasion might not necessarily be the easiest conversation one can have with a stranger 🙂
PS. I recently had the chance to look at the inside mechanics of another interesting industry: wineries. At first glance it’s screaming for disruption. I’ll try to blog about it soon.