How to keep your small business running lean and agile

Business ownership has many obvious benefits: the opportunity to turn something you’re passionate about into a reality, the chance to change the world, the freedom of becoming your own boss . . . to name just a few. But the truth of the matter is that kicking off a new business venture takes tons of work and commitment, and sadly most small businesses often fail.

The Lean Startup strategy has emerged in recent years as a refreshing approach to running new business ventures. The focus of the Lean Approach is to help startups and small businesses operate in a more efficient, customer-driven, and intuitive way while saving time and money. Instead of 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 and into the hands of as many customers as fast as possible.

 

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A business is all about offering a set of products, goods, or services that customers want. If there’s any other reason you’re in business then you need to re-evaluate your motives. So to keep things clear, you need a strategy for achieving the aims of making your customer happy. That’s your business bottom-line! The Lean approach to business operations and product development will help you get there.

In what follows we’ve pulled together a brief checklist of the main hallmarks that characterize a lean and agile approach to running your startup or small business.

Build Your Minimum Viable Product: The key here is to turn your idea into reality as fast as possible with as little financial investment as possible. In this case “less is more” – whether it’s a simple landing page, an email, or a few lines of code – the idea is to get a product out there and save all the bells and whistles until you’ve learned about the real needs of your customers. This principle applies not only to the newbie entrepreneur who is developing the initial product, but to all subsequent iterations, upgrades, and releases.

 

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Measure Customer Feedback or “Getting Out of the Building”: One of the most important principles of the Lean strategy, and key to its success, involves getting out of the building. This can be done in a number of ways, for instance, by observing and interviewing your prospects to understand their pain points, their needs, their stories. At the same time, you can also get creative and have your customers offer you “currency” in the form of email addresses, tweets, letters of intent – or even offer them physical channels that will get them excited about supporting your product. When you have their trust, your early adopters will provide invaluable ways for you to measure the success (or not!) of your business strategy.

Learn When to Pivot: The pivot is a “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth.” Knowing when to pivot or persevere is a critical question for the entrepreneur, but it has no easy answer since. Since we’re all prone to overestimate the value of our ideas, the best rule is to get an outside perspective; if after 3 months no new entity has joined your cause then it’s time to pivot!

 

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Keep Innovation Front and Center: Innovation has become a big “buzzword” in business circles over the past few years and everyone is scrambling to get onboard. Technology progress means that innovation is now happening on a scale never seen before . . . and so is disruption. Keeping innovation as the focus will guarantee your business remains on the cutting edge of the latest technology trends. And holding on to a lean and agile approach will “grease the skids” for making innovation easier, faster, and more intuitive . . . which in turn will preserve your competitive advantage.

 

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The Lean Startup strategy provides a powerful set of principles and best practices for building your startup and running your small business in a more efficient, customer-driven, and intuitive manner. Instead of investing enormous amounts of time and money into developing or maintaining a product that has no chance, the Lean approach advocates placing the emphasis on the customer first and foremost and developing the product around real, testable needs. While never a guarantee of success, this approach  provides both budding and seasoned entrepreneurs with smart ways of thinking and clear strategies for succeeding in today’s competitive business market. Start running “Lean” today and set your new business venture apart from the pack.

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