Trimming The Fat: Keeping Your Startup Lean

You’ve got a great idea, secured investment and have taken your product to market. You may have even experienced early success. But before long, cracks appear: The numbers are heading in slightly the wrong direction and unnervingly, things aren’t working out quite the way you had so confidently predicted following that early eureka moment.

It’s surprising how many founders think that the first version of their product will also be the final one. In reality, further refinement is nearly always needed.

In his book entitled The Lean Startup, Eric Ries, the proclaimed father of lean entrepreneurship, discusses how to adopt the “lean” approach, and how it can change your business development for the better by helping you to focus not just on building things, but building the right things.

It can do the same for you. Here are a few tips.

1. Use evidence to unlock success.

The lean method moves beyond favourable opinions and towards gathering valuable, usable evidence.

Using it enabled us to truly observe the effects of our product, seeing it in action and recording exactly how it was being received externally. This approach allows you to measure what works and what doesn’t. As many businesses are now adept with using analytical tools and measurement systems this shouldn’t be daunting. Think of lean as a scientific method, with change grounded in data from behaviour, not whims.

2. Reprogramming your attitude to failure.

While I’m a big fan of Ries, I also share the success story of inventor Dr Norm Larsen to help others understand why we chose to go lean. Although he may not have realized it at the time, Larsen implemented a lean approach when he devised his most famous product: WD-40. Viewing his work as an experiment, he constantly adjusted and refined the product until satisfied, which is exactly what we do. You know why Larsen’s product is called WD-40? Because versions one to 39 all had failings.

We can learn a lot from Larsen’s persistence and approach. It shows how rethinking our attitude to failure can enable us to learn and adjust quickly, bringing us closer to success.

3. Climb aboard.

The lean approach involves the whole company, not just the C-suite. For it to work, everyone needs to be invested. I’ve found that once staff are signed up and have a sense of ownership and involvement, they will work with you to achieve tangible goals. It’s all about empowerment; Team members will work towards collective success based on their individual performance, not distant corporate objectives.

I strive to create an environment where people aren’t scared to try new things or speak up when they feel adjustments should be made. This approach has helped me create a culture of collaboration and innovation, which has invigorated the company across all departments and levels.

4. Take a practical and philosophical approach.

You might wonder how to maintain momentum when the business flourishes beyond the startup stage. Positive or negative, all business changes must be consistently addressed and managed. A key consideration of lean is that ultimately it’s a mindset. With the right care, attention and with the senior management team leading from the front, a lean culture can be maintained with scale and with confidence.

5. Take as much (or as little) from it as you want.

Remember, when it comes to going lean you can be a fan without being fanatical.

With the Ries model, we take from it what we need and tailor it to our business. Like all business approaches, nothing is set in stone. That’s the beauty of lean: It encourages constant analysis, adaptation and refinement.

It’s within the capabilities of your business to achieve success. If you value business or product development as a constant work in progress, the lean startup approach can give you the framework to help your business flourish.

But What Is It Really?

But What To Do?

Startups use dozens of different services across business, product, and engineering teams to help their company operate and scale more effectively. Those tools allow companies to execute with precision, efficiency, and create a layer of accountability. Ultimately, they save us time and money, and drive business forward.

As a small business, getting work done in a measurable and efficient manner is critical. But the price of these tools can quickly add up. So today, I want to discuss some of the best free offerings to keep your startup lean.

Here are my top favorites across the board:

  1. Do

Do allows you to run productive meetings, focus the discussion, and make clear decisions. It’s the easiest way to centralize all your notes, presentations, documents and other collateral. One of Do’s best features is that it keeps meetings on a timed agenda, which reduces tangents and keeps the team on topic.

2. Free Instagram Analytics Tool

Pixlee’s free Instagram Analytics tool provides subscribers with ongoing weekly reports to monitor your brand, discover emerging influencers, and identify top content. It provides a quick way to listen to what your customers are saying about you on social media and identify the users who are evangelizing your brand.

3. SideKick

Sidekick allows you to see who opens your emails, easily schedule emails for later, and to see information about your contacts. It’s an easy way for marketing teams to monitor which emails have been delivered, opened, and engaged with. Because Sidekick is a Hubspot product, it also seamlessly integrates into the Hubspot platform and offers valuable marketing insights.

4. Invision

Invision lets designers build interactive, realistic web and mobile mockups and prototypes. The biggest plus is that you can create interactive wireframes and designs without any code, but teammates can still interact with your design and get the full experience. Real-time updates, seamless syncing with other design tools, and version control also make this one of the best tools out there for designers.

5. Evernote

Evernote helps you collect and organize everything you need to be more productive. It’s the ultimate tool for sales. With Evernote, you can create individual notebooks for each prospect, turn on the voice recorder to capture content, and use Penultimate to digitalize drawings and handwritten notes. The service syncs across all devices so that you never “leave your notebook at the office” when you’re meeting with a prospective client.

Startups use a variety of tools and services that optimize their productivity. Today there are many companies producing great resources for entrepreneurs looking to run an efficient and lean startup. If you’re wondering exactly where to start and are on a budget, I believe these five free resources are an absolute must.