Today it seems like everyone and their friend’s brother’s uncle is kicking-off a startup. Undoubtedly, there are lots of advantages to running a successful startup: the opportunity to turn something you’re passionate about into a business, the chance to change the world, the freedom of becoming your own boss . . . to name just a few. Business ownership has many benefits. But the reality is that starting a small company takes tons of work and commitment, and sadly most often fail.
The “Lean Startup” strategy has emerged in recent years as a refreshing alternative to the traditional approach to building new business ventures. The focus of the Lean approach is to help startups run in a more efficient, customer-driven, and intuitive way while saving time and money. According to the Lean Startup website, “The fundamental activity of a startup is to turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere.”
Instead of writing a business plan at your desk and pouring tons of time and money into a product that has little guarantee of success, the Lean approach goes right to the question of how to do more with less and get your product out the door as fast as possible.
There are some core principles related to the Lean approach that, if applied properly, can put you in a successful state of mind going into your startup. Let’s run through a number of suggestions you can adopt right now to ensure your business is lean, agile, responsive, and progressive.
Process vs. Product: Different personality types lean towards different sides of the spectrum. Some folks get lost in “the process” while others are more pragmatic and focus on outcomes. Nothing against process folks, but the universe rewards those who deliver products. Revenue flows from products, not processes. At the same time, there is also a happy balance between product and process. You’ll need clearly defined processes to ensure your business and projects are running in a streamlined, efficient, organized and professional manner.
Tools & Resources: Let’s face it, technology has dramatically transformed the way we work. And in order to work most efficiently, you must be clued into the great selection of cheap or free online tools available today for the digital business. Kudos to zero2illo.com and their excellent article, 101 Guide to Running A Lean & Agile Business, for providing this overview:
Google Apps for a suite of tools such as email, calendar, online word processing/spreadsheets/presentations, and more.
Evernote for clipping, storing and organizing your resources and snippets of information (doesn’t have to be digital – snap photos to digitalize and upload online).
Be a DIYer and Control Assets: Part of being innovative is taking existing processes and transforming them into creative new possibilities. When it comes to running your business you don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” or “boil the ocean” as they say. Part of the idea of bootstrapping your business is to limit reliance on external finances so you retain more control and focus on customers instead of investors. Leverage your own skill sets and also your social networks. You can learn to revise your own website and save costs. Jump on Twitter and Facebook and learn the ropes of basic social marketing. Learning by doing will make your business more agile and cost efficient.
Preserving Your Mindset: Becoming a successful business leader in today’s digital global economy requires, quite frankly, a different mindset than was required just 5 years ago. Technology is changing so rapidly and is, now more than ever, a key differentiator in all lines of the business cycle. Staying lean and agile and keeping eyes and ears open to the emerging and disruptive changes in the market place requires insight, open-mindedness, quick thinking, and decisiveness in order to pivot and make adjustments when necessary.