1. Eliminate waste
There are limited resources on a Startup, the main goal is to lift off before the runway ends on a cliff. If your Startup is glued to the ground you have to throw away what’s not necessary. Maybe you are paying a high fee for a fancy CRM and you have zero leads to work with, that’s waste. Or maybe you are leasing a story when there’s just 3 people and a goldfish on your team. You don’t need those… yet. The most important part on your startup is to create value, generate cash flow and lift off.
2. Iterate through the fedback loop as fast as possible
Build, measure, learn – in that order. This brings to my mind an article about a decision-making technique called OODA. You can take a look here -> OODA LOOP: What You Can Learn from Fighter Pilots About Making Fast and Accurate Decisions a really big part of Startups is about making experiments. Learning as fast as possible what works and what doesn’t is critical to success given the amount of resources you count on.
3. Pivot vs Persevere
Do you keep trying to push that product, business model, app feature or do you just follow a different path? This decision has to rely on data from the feedback loop. Maybe that feature you and your team love so much means nothing to the actual customer and must be thrown away.
The hard part here is to pivot, it’s hard to let go what we’ve been working on so hard for so long but this is a business, not a hobby, and if you want your Startup to be viable, trust the data.
4. Startups don’t starve, they drown
This one really clicked in my head. It’s not about not making sales, or not getting customers. The bigger problem with Startups is that there are so many options available, so many Ad platforms, so many social media channels, so many new shiny things that promise plug-and-grow that it’s fairly easy to feed the To-do list until it’s no longer doable and thus the Startup starts to drown in meaningless tasks.
Keep it simple enough to be manageable.
5. Focus on key metrics
This has a lot to do with the one above. Likes? They don’t matter. Followers? No Clicks? Nay. What matters is who is willing to pay for your product or service. There’s no point in bragging about having millions on those vanity metrics if you barely can convert one sale from those. Focus on what matters.
6. Often customers don’t know what they want
Remember the anecdote about Henry ford and fast horses? Well, it’s the same here. You should collect your customer’s feedback and try to find the problem they are trying to solve. As in the anecdote, “Faster horses” really means “Speed”. Or “Movie club delivery service” really means “Online streaming”.
By listening to the customer you can present a solution in a way they hadn’t thought before and you will solve the problem and impress them at the same time.
7. Test every assumption and hypothesis
Oh my. If you get one thing from this post, let it be this one. You have to test wether or not what you are doing it’s working, period. There’s no room to waste resources on things that aren’t important or critical to the Startup.
Also, don’t get trapped on testing every single thing e.g. testing every shade and tone of geen on a button. Overtesting is just as bad as not testing. If you don’t see significant results after testing, you probably should be testing something else.
8. Business model
On this early stage, you have two options: low margin, lots of customers (viral) OR high margin, no need to go that viral. Or something in between. Yes, there are many Business Models and their combinations but let’s not overcomplicate our already difficult lives for now. This will help you make decisions about the Startup and where you or/and your team whould put focus on, it’s something important to have in mind.
9. Genchi gembutsu
From the Toyota Production System. Want to solve a problem? go where the problem is. Data doesn’t add up? Go check for yourself. Then you can really understand the situation and start thinking about the solution.
Don’t wait until somithing breaks, it never hurts to genchi gembutsu every now and then to spot improvement opportunities.
10. The Five Whys
Another one from the Toyota Production System; This one states that every problen can be tracked back to a human mistake. Ask five times why every time there’s a problem on your Startup to see all the mistakes that led to that problem and fix the root cause. The Harvard Business Review has a small article about this -> The five Whys for Startups.
11. Reduce batch size
In this mass production era there’s the notion that everything must be done in the biggest batch size possible to increase efficiency. This may work for true-and-tried production systems, but on a Startup, where there’s still a lot of experimenting and guessing, having too much of the wrong thing can mean doomsday.
Reduce the batch size so you can make adjustements as needed until you have data that tells you that’s reasonable to increase the batch size.
12. Stop the production so there’s no need to stop the production – Jidoka
Related to Genchi gembutsu, The Five Whys and Reducing the batch size and of course, from TPS. Jidoka refers to a production line that has it’s own quality control. It’s the ability to stop when a worker or a machine detect flaws on the product. It makes quality a built-in part rather than an afterthought
It’s better to stop and fix a couple of nuts and bolts here and now than fixing a hundred broken cars later.
13. Be open to mistakes
Don’t forget you are discovering a new way to solve a problem. With new comes a lot of uncertainty and mistakes. Take each mistake as a step towards success rather than a burden to blame you for.
14. Solid foundations and training
Keep learning, this can’t be stressed enough. A Startup usually has a small team, even just one person. You don’t have to be an expert on every field but having a decent understanding of different topics can go a long way.
Be clear on what your Startup stands for so everyone has a north when in doubt and you won’t have to bother every time a question arises. With solid foundations everyone is on the same page.
15. Nobody will steal your idea
Oh boy, this was a revelation for me. It’s absurdly hard that someone steals your idea. Many of us have the fear that if we tell someone about our business idea they can and will steal it and make a thriving business and leave us behind. Nothing farther from the truth. We may be able to start on our own but this won’t last forever, eventually we will need help and something even more obvious: Customers. How the hell will they know about our solution if we don’t talk about it?
Try this: Try to contact a manager or someone in a high position on a company that’s trying to solve similar problems that the ones you are trying to solve with your business idea. Go on, try it and tell them about your idea and see if they steal it.
They have the money, the workers, the infraestructure, and… most likely they won’t be interested in pursuing your idea because they have hundreds of other thing to worry about.
So, don’t be afraid of sharing. Start working towards your goal.
It’s your idea anyway, if you tell someone you want to make the most amazing pizza ever they won’t automatically come right up with the ingredients (if they may really steal your idea) for the dough, the size, the smell, the presentation and all of the important stuff that you already thought of becasue after all, it’s YOUR IDEA.
Start. It. Up.
Photo by: You X Ventures