Everyone knows we’re in a recession, right? Partly for this reason, the concept of the lean startup has spread across the United States and now worldwide, a truly minimalistic approach to business. Eric Ries’ text has reinvented how we think about and conduct paper helper business, and as far as I can see, it’s all to the good.
A few of the concepts presented are truly brilliant, and, after discussing the book with a few business colleagues here in Finland, ones I realized that I’ve employed in my own business practices. One is “start fast, fail fast” – minimizing your turnaround time for business plans and concepts. Another is that a successful business doesn’t have to start big; indeed, if a business starts big these days, it seems more likely to fail than a business who starts with the bare minimum of essentials.
Something that has to be recalled, though, is that the concept of the lean startup doesn’t preclude investment per se. In my opinion, it simply calls for smarter and smaller investment – minimalism hard at work. Come up with a concept – a few, in fact – figure out what you want to do, what you need to learn, what you need to operate, and go about obtaining those things with the least amount of time and money possible.
This can apply to classes or consulting you seek out as well. The lean startup concept can apply to teaching your employees what they need to be successful. Let’s say, for example, that a class in web communications tools is available at a local college for the cost of $500. Would you spend $500 – and a whole semester – taking that class, or would you spend $200 and less than a week obtaining the knowledge you need to use these tools successfully? I know where I’d be putting my money. And that, to me, is what the lean startup is all about – getting what you need most with the least amount of pain.
Of course, the lean startup isn’t all fun and games, either. Founding a lean startup, and evolving it into a lean business, takes a lot of hard work and sometimes very long days. For a lean business, six months to a year turnaround time for delivering a product or service, or testing a business plan – which is standard for most businesses – is too long. Aiming for a much shorter turnaround time, say, one to two months, is ideal. The idea is to work smart instead of necessarily always working hard, and test a concept out to see if it’s profitable within a short period of time.
The lean startup is a relatively new concept, but it is completely revolutionizing the way we think about business by telling us that we don’t have to get thousands or millions of dollars in investments, that we don’t have to spend two or even five years making a business profitable, that by utilizing the tools we have at hand intelligently we can build something out of next to nothing – and that’s the kind of business that I want to serve.