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Entrepreneurship

Book Review – The Lean Startup

The full name of the book captures the objective with which Eric Ries has presented this beautiful methodology. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses is written by Eric Ries, who as entrepreneur has been there, done that with his startup.

When I was reading this book, the most prominent feeling throughout was that why didn’t I read the book earlier. Being a startup co-founder, you realize that working on a product is an extremely involved process which takes time, money and efforts.

Some founders are scared of sharing their ideas because of the fear of getting copied. Let me tell you, ideas are worth a dime a dozen. Execution is crucial. This book gives you a new approach for executing your product idea i.e. your idea of building a startup amidst uncertainty and around a scalable tech product. I will not hesitate in saying, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a must read book for every tech entrepreneur and product manager

The Lean Startup methodology of building the product is borrowed from Toyota Production System, popularly known as “Lean Manufacturing”. It aims to reduce the waste to minimum and achieve super efficiency.

The most important aspect which is underlying theme of the book The Lean Startup is – The Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop.  

Planning and forecasting are only useful when your operations and business have been stable and the environment is static. Startups have neither. A startup has to build a framework for building and continuously improving the effectiveness of new products, services and ideas. Most importantly it has to do it quick and cheap.

The process starts with building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) based on your initial hypothesis. Launching it to a small audience, measuring important metrices to understand user experience and acceptability and then use this learning to improve the product. And the cycle continues.

My personal experience suggests, that the biggest hurdles in applying Lean Startup methodology to your product development initiatives are the perfectionist mindset of the product manager and the slow decision-making process at the top. The lean startup methodology thrives on the willingness to experiment continuously coupled with the agility (combination of speed & flexibility) of the product team. Hence, it’s more a mindset play than anything else. Difficult to adopt in the organization, but once you do that, the benefits are huge and obvious. 

The book is available on Flipkart (affiliate link)

Categories
Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs are Customer Obsessed Healers!

Entrepreneurship has always had a unique sheen around it. The late CK Prahlad while delivering a lecture just before he passed away said that,

“entrepreneurs are the new freedom fighters and can lift India out of the shackles of poverty.”

Glamorize them or demonize them you can’t ignore them. 

Entrepreneurship is a huge subject and has always been close to my heart. Putting down my thoughts on one of the many aspects of entrepreneurship-

HEALING A PAIN 

Entrepreneurship is a different take on an existing problem w.r.t. an audience you’re targeting.

Asking questions no one else is asking (inventors). Answering questions, asked earlier, in a different way (improvisers).

Being focused on some specific pain of your audience which you’re trying to solve. Identifying more related pain points and healing them. 

Thus being obsessed with customers and not competitors. If you’re customer obsessed you’ll do all you can do solve their pain.

You might have to create multiple products for that. Multiple teams. Multiple location. Multiple business models.

You’re not directed by what your competitors are doing, you’re just directed by what you think your customers value and are willing to pay a price. Continuously trying to understand what users need through feedback (data) and anecdotes (active listening). Groom people and build processes for active listening. This will be the feeder for continuous product enhancement and better UX.

At times, your customer will not know what she wants. She might never has been exposed to the possibility of certain way of life, product or service. In that case, you need to create the demand (blue ocean). You need to have a strong intuition (and guts to fail) in guesstimating what she will fall for. Create that channel or product or service or way of life for them.

Pickup a pain, heal all the pain points, in all possible ways.

While you’re growing, it becomes inevitable to build an organization wide culture (most important part of any organization, more on that some other day) of customer obsession and quick decision making. You need to grow fast but continue being nimble. 

Caution – All I’ve said above is not what happens by default. When we’re small we get too overwhelmed with execution and we lose real touch with customers.

Generally, people in organization who’re made responsible for taking care of customers, replace the real listening with proxies (like ratings, reviews, no complaints, etc.). These proxies have become the matrices to care for.

It’s not their fault. They are generally scared of sharing anything uncomfortable with the people they are reporting to or the founder / entrepreneur.

They are blamed first for the poor feedback, not the product, not the system. Moreover, there is this natural human tendency to defend what is created by oneself. One can’t just simply accept that there can be shortcomings in one’s creation.

Alternatively, what was good yesterday, might not be so good today and possibly become ugly if not updated, upgraded today. Hence, encourage people in frontline (marketing, sales & support, I call them fighters) to be fearless when narrating customer stories inside your organization. Both negative and positive. I strongly believe, an entrepreneur can become a hurdle to the growth, if he doesn’t grow faster than the organization itself.

In fact, power of stories should be used effectively to build a customer culture. To connect people inside (employees) with people outside (customers), you need strong underlying emotions. Nothing works better than stories of customer delight shared by people, with others within the organization. Stories stays in mind and they get spread. Thus, these stories help in spreading customer obsession to all departments.