Every wildly successful business coach promises his clients to give them a blueprint for building their own businesses. The clients, obviously, pay thousands of pounds to acquire such a rare gift. They go through the material, absorb the information, implement it diligently and fail spectacularly when the process is complete.
The reason for such failures is not the bad quality of the material. On the contrary, the instructions are perfect for the business that the specific coach was running at the specific time. Only s/he knows what worked and why. Accordingly s/he attempts to teach this supposedly unique secret to others.
We need to remember that entrepreneurs are unique individuals, with unique talents and ideas. Our different approach is what brings value to societies. If we try to comply to the rules, regulations and blueprints set by a bunch of so-called experts, we will have to face failure sooner or later.
Moreover, technology allowed for rapid changes in the economy and in society. What may have been a recipe for success six months ago, may not be acceptable today. For example, what if facebook or google decided to change the rules of The Game once more? All of the marketing material would have to be readjusted (usually at great expense) and a new path to success would have to be planned.
Instead of abiding by a blueprint, you may want to follow a handful of general guidelines that will get you on the path to success, while you are creating your own rules. Lean startup methodology is exactly that. It helps you understand better your market, your customer, your potential, while it allows you to innovate and put your own stamp on your business.
There are a handful of principles that need to be followed, while the rest is a matter of using your imagination and skill.
1. Learn from the process of building your business. We are not supposed to define a long term strategy in the first stages of building. In fact, a strategy may inhibit us and cause us to fail. Instead, test all of your hypothesis, regarding the identity of your customers, the solutions you are offering to their problems, the price of the product, your unique value proposition, the channels through which you will reach your customers etc. In order to test these hypotheses, start by creating a Minimum Viable Product – that is a miniature version of your final idea- and launch. The results will guide you to a safe port.
2. Fail fast, fail soon. Do not be afraid of failure. It is part of the learning process and it helps you leave behind the false hypotheses you started with. Be brave and embrace failure, before you stand up and try again… and again… and again. Every time, assess your results and, if you have been wrong, pivot! That is, change direction, even if it means going against your original assumptions. What is the point of persisting on a product that will never ‘cut’ it in the new markets. It is imperative to accept defeat as early as possible, when you still have the resources and strength to try once more.
3. Focus on the needs of the customers. There is no point in creating a product that nobody wants. Even if you are not in the game for the money but for the glory, you would still need to win the acknowledgement and respect of the masses. So, find out what your customers really want, long before you put the final touches on your product. This customer-centric view will be very helpful also later, when you will have to provide top notch customer service. Only when the people who buy the products are pleased with the result would you be able to build a successful business.
4. Save time and money. All of your decisions should be geared towards saving time and money. After all, this is what ‘lean’ is all about. Do not waste the most valuable resources you will ever have as an entrepreneur and/or as a startup. I know that during the economic growth (before 2008) wasting resources became a major source for boosting western economies. Not any more. Now, governments and individuals alike focus on the preservation of existing resources. You will not be able to survive and thrive, unless you follow their lead.
The above list is not a set of rules, carved in stone. They are very vague guidelines that will help you in your quest for a successful business model. While you are in this process, you should always remember that you are a unique individual and that your business should be unique in the same way.
For more information on lean startup methodology, you could take a look at my other blog posts.