For any journey, if you want to get to where you want to go you first have to know where you are. Like Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” The trouble with the the “any road” approach is that you’ll likely get to where you don’t want to end up.
Startup entrepreneurs who get to where they want to go start by fully understanding the journey upon which they are embarking. A startup, by definition, is an organization in search of a viable, sustainable and profitable business model. What this really means is that your product is not the product that will deliver your success. Your business model is the product.
Your value to your customer is all of the things that go into a great experience with what you have to offer. Your job to get, keep and grow customers isn’t just building the best solutions. It’s owning the entire business model and making all the pieces fit elegantly.
Whether your startup is in the tech industry or not, the lean startup principles and processes apply to any startup looking to get, keep and grow customers competitively, competently and consistently. Successful startup entrepreneurs don’t write business plans, they discover a business model that works. This is the concept behind the lean startup movement.
The lean startup business model strategy is a systematic process for iterating from an initial hypothesized Plan A to a plan that actually works, before running out of money. It’s an iterative process that challenges all assumptions, validates market needs, desires and buying motivations and pivots when the data reveals a better direction in which to travel.
The hard truth is most Plan A ideas are fundamentally flawed. We don’t like to think of our ideas as flawed because we thought of them. However, there is usually a kernel of brilliance in the initial idea that, when discovered, will excite and engage the market you wish to serve. It is a fast-paced process that encourages quick small failures in order to get to what will success affordably while avoiding the big and costly mistakes that derail startups – even ones with great initial ideas.
Typically, Founders who stick with Plan A are the ones who achieve failure. Hypotheses aren’t challenged or validated. Products are successfully built that not enough of a market wants. By investing your time, energy and limited capital in a Lean Startup methodology you’ll give your startup the essential foundation necessary to achieve success.
Building and growing a startup is a parallel process of Customer Development and Product Development that culminates with discovering the product that will Nail It! for your market – one that they will buy or actively engage. What this means is that the first question to ask yourself as a startup entrepreneur isn’t “How do I build this product?”. The question that will best ensure that you get to where you want to go is “Should I build this product?”
In other words, first find out what the market really wants. This doesn’t mean just asking if people will buy your product idea. It also doesn’t mean just asking the market what they want you to build. If automaker Henry Ford asked his market what they wanted they would have likely answered with “A faster horse.”
Instead, what Ford did was ask questions like, “When it comes to travel, what problems or issues do you generally have? What frustrates you the most? The answers revealed that travelers at that time in history wanted to get to their destination quicker and without having to deal with the time, inconvenience and expense of taking care of horses. Based on that data, Ford invented the automobile. The rest, as they say, is history.
Had Ford invested tons of time, energy and money in trying to make horses run faster he would have failed miserably. Because he first invested time, energy and money in figuring out what he could build that would significantly and powerfully solve a clear market problem his “product” changed the world.
Once you know what product will excite your market its then a question of how you can easily, efficiently and affordably take that product to the market. The lean startup process teaches you how to identify and leverage channel sales and visibility partners, price your products properly and profitably, leverage trends, communicate your value concisely and clearly and grow to your optimum business potential. It is the definitive roadmap that will get you from where you are to where you want to go as an entrepreneur and as someone destined to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the people you serve.