I had the privilege this week of visiting Pitman Farms, the company behind Mary’s Free Range Chicken. Though I didn’t meet Mary or her husband Rick, I did get to sit down with their son Ben. He told us about the family business, including their […]
The Lean Startup is a book that’s foundational for understanding much of the conversation around entrepreneurship today. But here’s the thing: if you haven’t read the book, it’s not what you think it is. I talk with business leaders and academics all the time. When I mention The Lean Startup, almost everyone makes an assumption about the title. They think that it means starting a business with resource constraints. But everyone who starts a business does so with constraints. Everyone feels pressure to do more with less.
But Lean Startup isn’t about doing more with less. Rather, it’s a fundamentally different approach to developing products and services that involves customers from an early stage of development. Eric Ries developed these concepts with Steve Blank and has tested them in his own businesses and with thousands of other startups around the world. This approach has wantrapreneurs start with a customer pain and develop the simplest possible solution to that pain. This is called an MVP, or Minimum Viable Product. The next step is testing the product with customers to see if it does, indeed, meet the customer’s need in the way that was intended. The entrepreneur then takes the product through a build -> measure -> learn process of iterative development. The whole idea is to develop in a way that proves the value being created for the customer at every step. This keeps entrepreneurs from developing a really cool product or service that no one wants.
This methodology works really well for software, where iterative development and easy customer testing are very accessible. But it can work across a whole range of products or services, and much has been written about how to do this. As a matter of fact, follow-on books to The Lean Startup have become something of a cottage industry. This is a mark of the book’s stature in the conversation.
I realized the centrality of The Lean Startup to our current dialogue when I took a bunch of students to the Startup Grind Global Conference back in February. Speakers kept referring to concepts like MVP and customer development. I kept leaning over to whichever student was closest and trying to summarize these concepts in a way that made sense. Most of those explanations ended with, “…You should just read the book.”
The ‘Lean’ in ‘Lean Startup’ comes from the lean manufacturing movement. Lean manufacturing is a continuous improvement methodology developed in Japan at Toyota by Taiichi Ohno. It was first called the Toyota Production System, of TPS. An understanding of the paradigm-busting thinking that goes into Lean manufacturing will help to set up the foundations for The Lean Startup. If you want a good explanation of Lean, I recommend Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation.
There’s plenty more to say about Lean Startup, but this should be enough to get you started. Will you read the book? What were your thoughts? What important concepts did I miss?
Enjoy the reading!
Entrepreneurs are curious people. They’re driven to create, and part of that process involves learning from others. The most successful entrepreneurs read – a lot. Much of my business education comes from the books I’ve read. As I was mentoring a young entrepreneur recently, he […]
I have the opportunity to take students inside four different manufacturing companies this week. These companies are really opening up to talk about sales, production, accounting, production scheduling, labor and personnel, and other useful business topics. Below are the first two company visits, posted over at a web site I created for the project, ePathway Academy. Follow along and enjoy!
Entrepreneurs are creatives. They’re pushed by external forces and pulled between ambitions that compete for mental space. Their dreams are rarely linear and often interrelated. Putting timelines to dreams is one of the hardest tasks an aspiring entrepreneur can face. They need systems for capturing, […]
One question I hear from a lot of first-time entrepreneurs is how they should go about registering their trademark. There area few issues to consider here. First, let me state upfront that I’m not an attorney, not an expert in intellectual property, and I’m not […]
View image | gettyimages.com I spent today watching college entrepreneurs give elevator pitches to potential investors. After watching business ideas all day, I have a few observations: Funding is not a rare commodity, but validated, vetted business ideas are. It’s vitally important to know the pain you’re […]