Over the next several weeks, we will be posting a series of blogs on Lean Startup Methodology. This approach to entrepreneurship focuses on customer development as a vital tool in the process of learning how to build a successful business. Championed by entrepreneurs/mentors Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits in their book The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development, Lean Startup concepts offer a pragmatic method to get your business off the ground.
Why Get Lean? Industry experts agree, often the success of a startup doesn’t directly correlate with the originality and innovation of the product or service it offers, but rather with the entrepreneur’s knack for targeting customers and responding to their needs, using feedback to adapt and improve. Take Brian Scudamore, who founded 1-800-Got-Junk? to create an elegant, customer service oriented solution to residential waste removal. While his idea might not be the most revolutionary, it has grown into a successful business due to his business-building savvy and customer development.
Essentially, the Lean Startup Method lends itself to two outcomes. In an ideal situation, the startup uses customer development strategies to create a functional product and build a sustainable business. In the alternative scenario, the entrepreneur will quickly become aware of an unsuccessful project (through testing and feedback) and can avoid investing further time and resources into a sinking ship, also known as the “fail fast” concept.
A major component in the Lean Startup Methodology is the concept of the pivot. Eric Ries, bestselling author of The Lean Startup, explains that “by testing, each failed hypothesis leads to a new pivot, where we change just one element of the business plan […] but don’t abandon everything we’ve learned.” The changes and slight alterations respond to customer preferences in order to make outcome number two less likely. That said, if you find yourself pivoting into oblivion, you’ve got to know when to cut your losses. In the case of startups, keep in mind that your mom’s “never give up” advice doesn’t necessarily apply.
Getting Lean is all about learning how to be a successful business owner. Think of it as the scientific method of entrepreneurship. Your customer has a problem. You have a hypothesis for solving the problem. You test your hypothesis, change elements that don’t work, and provide the best possible solution for your customer. Between these basic steps are Lean Startup techniques for successful entrepreneurship. Check back often as we highlight your keys to Getting Lean.