Zach Obront: Solve a Problem

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Today’s guest is Zach Obront, co-founder of Scribe (formerly Book in a Box), a company that helps entrepreneurs and innovators turn their ideas into a book.

When Zach Obront was in college, he started a high school.

A bit silly? Possibly, in retrospect. But Zach has never had an issue with out-of-the-box thinking.

The next company he created, Handy Monkey, was a mold removal company he started when he realized that mold removal companies in Toronto did not understand the ins-and-outs of SEO and internet advertising. He and his partner wanted to prove to the skeptical owners of these companies that internet marketing would solve many of their problems, and the only way they could think to prove that was to create a company themselves and make it profitable.

“[E]ventually what we decided was the only way we were gonna be able to kind of make that change in that industry, is just to do it end to end, and show them that the Internet works, and therefore, we can generate leads, and therefore, we can build a team, and therefore, we can solve the actual problem.”

This tactic worked better than Zach anticipated, and within eight months his partner began to talk about expanding to other cities.

“I tend to get caught up in problems that… when there's no solution, I'm just focused on finding a solution as opposed to stepping back and…questioning…I kinda put my head down and ran through a wall for eight months until finally we got there. And then I said, “Ooh, this is horrible.”

Having a thriving mold-removal company was not Zach’s dream scenario, but he did learn that there is significant value in understanding a process from start to finish. He is now utilizing his out-of-the-box thinking at Scribe (formerly Book in a Box), which he co-founded to help authors navigate the early stages of book development all the way through the first week of their title being on the market. He and his team have helped numerous authors solve real-world problems for thousands of readers, and his advice to authors is simple: solve a problem.

“[T]he biggest thing by far, like before you start writing, before you write a single word, get 100% clear on what you want out of the book, like personally, selfishly, what does a success look like, who is the audience?…[You need a] very clear specific kind of purpose for the book and the kind of thing that, that it's not interesting until it's the most interesting thing in the world, and I'd say that about a lot of our books, because…they're solving a specific problem that people either don't care or are obsessed with, and that's what we're going for.”

Join us as we discuss the problems authors commonly face in publishing a book, as well as how Zach and his team have created a uniquely supportive environment in their company that allows employees to feel empowered while identifying their greatest weaknesses.

Download the episode on iTunes or in the player below, and if you like what you hear, please leave a review.

Takeaways From this Episode:

  • Before you start writing a book, be 100% clear on what problem you are trying to solve. Imagine someone at a party is describing a problem to a friend, and the friend immediately tells them “Oh! You need to read (your book)!” What problem are they discussing?
  • Everyone has strengths and weaknesses—superpowers and obstacles. Twice a year Zach’s company takes the time to go person-by-person and talk through their strengths, adding attributes to a list and helping employees realize how they are uniquely amazing. Afterwards, they discuss what each employee wants out of life, and what obstacles they face. It takes a long time (about two hours per person), but brings the team together in ways that strengthen the company.
  • Disrupt yourself: point out to friends, family members, and co-workers what they do well (what their superpower is). Think about what superpowers you have, and what obstacles are in your way that prevent you from obtaining your goals in life.

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