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The age of judging companies only on their longevity is now past. Great companies solve problem that matter.

Since the 1950s we have been judging companies by their longevity. We fret over how long they stay on the Fortune 500 list, maintain a leadership position, or survive “disruptions.”

But does longevity even matter anymore? Isn’t longevity just a bi-product of something more important?

I think that great companies are those that dedicate themselves to a problem that matters. When they solve the problem, they exit the stage triumphant. And companies that survive, do so because the problem they exist to solve (their purpose or mission) is so big that there is still work to do. Longevity is not a goal in itself; it is a bi-product of taking on a big problem.

Purina, for example, exists to “connect pets with people.” Google exists to “organize the world’s information.” When will such missions be achieved? Every day, and never, which is why, as long as they stick to and really live their missions, these companies will survive.

Consider Curemark, a biotech company founded by pediatric doctor Joan Fallon. She noticed that many of the autistic children she treated were low on a certain kind of enzyme for processing protein, and that they all had similar diets. Fallon began investigating ideas for alternative treatments.

She’s since quit her medical practice and has built a company on her insights. 10 years later, Curemark has raised $50 million, and has completed phase 3 trials with the FDA. In other words, she found a problem that matters.

Here are her four key lessons to successfully build companies that solve problems that matter.


The critical path will determine the speed of progress. It is better to have all areas developing, even if slowly, than one area in trouble. Think about your marketing, sales, production, human capital, operations, finances, etc. Which is limiting your growth? That is the area to focus on.


Choosing a doctor, attorney, PR agent, or most types of talent places you in the dilemma of not being able to assess what you’re “buying” until it is too late to switch. You think you are getting a good deal by hiring someone who will do the job at a discounted rate. But the mistakes of someone less qualified usually outweigh their savings. Fallon credits Curemark’s success to “getting great advice” and surrounding herself with great advisors and talent. What are the critical functions you will need to succeed? Do you have the best talent playing these roles?


Fear–that you will run out of money, that your theory is flawed–can lead you to make the wrong decisions. Stop before you commit and ask, “Am I making this choice out of fear?”


Many biotech companies assume the FDA follows strict rules. But the rules, if you’re willing to understand them, are malleable. What matters more are the principles like are you protecting patient safety, are you solving a meaningful problem. Don’t assume the rules are fixed; instead, probe them with a higher purpose in mind.

As Curemark reaches the successful conclusion of a tough, passionate fight to solve a problem that matters–1 in 88 children in the US are autistic–they are now preparing to solve new challenges by taking a unique technology to deliver solutions into the human body to tackle problems like schizophrenia and other neurological conditions.

Companies don’t grow just to grow. They don’t last just to last. They thrive when the world needs them, when they are committed to solving a problem that matters. Then there is reason for them to continue your work, to grow, to thrive.

What problem keeps your business going?

“8Ps” of StrategyOpportunity
for Disruption
Recommended Leverage Points
Position- The farmers, individual and corporate, that you are targeting.

- The need of the agricultural industry that you seek to fill.
3- What technologies do you control that can help you tap into market
segments that you previously thought unreachable?

- What are the potential business alliances you could think about with key players in the segment to serve your customers with integrated solutions? (Serving customers with more integrated solutions example: serving farmers with fertilizers, crop protection and other).
Product- The products you offer, and the characteristics that affect their value to customers.

- The technology you develop for producing those products.
8- What moves are your organization taking to implement Big Data and analytics to your operations? What IoT and blockchain applications can you use?

- What tools and technology could you utilize or develop to improve food quality, traceability, and

- How can you develop a more sustainable production model to accommodate constraints on arable

- What is the future business model needed to serve new differentiated products to your customers?
Promotion- How you connect with farmers and consumers across a variety of locations and industries.
- How to make consumers, producers, and other stakeholders aware of your products and services.
8- How are you connecting your product with individual and corporate farms who could utilize it?
- How could you anticipate market and customer needs to make customers interested in accessing your differentiated products?
PriceHow consumers and other members of the agricultural supply chain pay for access to agricultural products.7- What elements of value comprise your pricing? How do each of those elements satisfy the varying needs of your customers?
Placement- How food products reach consumers. How the technologies, data, and services reach stakeholders in the supply chain.9- What new paths might exist for helping consumers access the food they desire?
- How are you adapting your operations and supply chain to accommodate consumers’ desire for proximity to the food they eat?
- How could you anticipate customer expectation to make products more
accessible to customers/agile supply chain?
- Have you considered urbanization as a part of your growth strategy?
- How your food satisfies the needs and desires of your customer.
- How the services you provide to agribusiness fulfill their needs.
9- Where does your food rate on a taste, appearance, and freshness
- Could the services you provide to companies and farms in the agriculture industry be expanded to meet more needs?
- What senses does your food affect besides hunger? How does your
customer extract value from your food in addition to consumption?
Processes- Guiding your food production operations in a manner cognizant of social pressure.8- How can you manage the supply chain differently to improve traceability and reduce waste?
- How can you innovate systems in production, processing, storing, shipping, retailing, etc.?
- What are new capabilities to increase sustainability (impact on the environment, or ESG) components?
People- The choices you make regarding hiring, organizing, and incentivizing your people and your culture.- How are you leveraging the agricultural experience of your staff bottom-up to achieve your vision?
- How do you anticipate new organizational capabilities needed to perform your future strategy (innovation, exponential technologies needed, agile customer relationship, innovative supply chain)?
- How do you manage your talents to assure suitable development with exposure in the agrifood main challenges/allowing a more sustainable view of the opportunities/cross-sectors?