Top 10 The Lean Startup circle tips to stay on track
Want to know more about the lean startup circle tips and how it can help fast track your startup idea? Read on to learn more about the circle and how you can apply the lean startup method to your new business.
The best things in life are circle-shaped. Pizza, doughnuts, onion rings and most importantly… the lean startup.
Okay, you can’t eat the lean startup circle, although we’re sure it would be delicious. But it can help you understand where you are in your startup journey and the challenges that may lie ahead. And of course, the more knowledge you have, the more responsive you can be.
Before we look at the lean startup circle, let’s look at what the lean startup method is.
What is the lean startup method?
“The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” — Eric Ries, the man behind the lean startup method
The lean startup method is a way of launching a startup in the shortest amount of time possible.
Time is of the essence when getting your startup to market. You don’t want to spend too long perfecting your product or service, only to find a competitor has got there before you.
Startups take longer to launch than you may think. According to Failory, founders overestimate the amount of time it takes to validate their ideas, with it taking two or even three times as long as they expect it to.
This means any way you can reduce the time it takes to get to market, without reducing the quality of your product or service, the better.
We’ve talked about the lean startup method at length on our blog, and if you go to the end of this article, you can read some of our favourite content. However, here is a summary of how the lean startup method (including the lean startup canvas) can be used to help launch your new business.
- • A proof of concept (POC) will help you check that your product or service is viable. You can use it to identify your unique selling points, who your target audience is and the potential risks
- • The lean startup canvas can help you break your business idea down and give a clear understanding of your business model to team members and investors
- • A minimum viable product (MVP) is a no-frills version of your product or service that means you can launch sooner. For example, if you are launching a mobile phone app, focusing on a single platform will help you get to market quicker and get the valuable feedback you need to move forward
- • Story points (like planning poker) can help you and your team work out how long tasks will take, meaning you can complete projects in a faster time frame
The lean startup method isn’t right for every business, for example, if you have a really big product or one that needs to be meticulously planned.
However, it can help save time, money, and avoid risk for most new startups.
What is the lean startup circle tips?
The lean startup circle tracks the lifecycle of your startup, from launch to closure.
You may find some people refer to the ‘startup circle’ as the ‘startup cycle.’ Both terms are used interchangeably to mean the same thing.
There are five stages to consider, all with very distinct characteristics:
- 1. The seed stage. This is when you have your startup idea. You need to see if there is scope for your fledgling business and conduct detailed market research to determine if there is a market for it. This is where the lean startup methods you have (hopefully) learnt will come in useful!
- 2. The launch stage. You’ve utilised the lean startup method and got your minimum viable product to market. It’s time to slowly grow your business until its time to move to the next step
- 3. The growth stage. Your startup is getting larger by the day, bringing in money and many growth opportunities. You may decide to recruit new employees, move into larger offices or even expand into new territories
- 4. The maturity stage. During the maturity stage, you may see profits stabilise. While they should be nice and high at this stage, they are unlikely to grow any further, mainly in part to having a lot more competitors than you did before. You may be happy with this outcome or decide to sell before profits fall. Alternatively, you may choose to launch new products or rebrand to start bringing in profits again
- 5. The decline stage. The final stage is when you see your profits slow down and eventually start to drop. When this happens, there are many options available to you. You can rebrand if you haven’t already, close your company down or sell your business to someone else.
The lean startup circle — our ten top tips
Now that you know what the lean startup circle is, you need to know how to take advantage of it. This can help you capitalise on where you are, leading to more profits and an increased chance of survival.
Given that 90% of startups eventually go out of business, with 20% failing in their first year, knowledge is most definitely power!
Here are our top ten the lean startup circle tips for mastering startup launch.
1. Know where you are
It’s critical to understand what stage you are at in the circle. Different stages require different strategies. For example, while drastically innovating and changing your offering is a good tactic at the end of the startup circle, it can be dangerous at the beginning.
How can you identify where you are? You can do this when you…
2. Keep an eye on your metrics
Many businesses don’t know they are in decline until their creditors are knocking at the door and the administrators have been called in. In the UK alone, many large brands like Debenhams, Jessops and Topshop all went out of business overnight during the pandemic.
Keeping a close watch on your KPIs, especially your financial ones, will help you know when you are safe, and when you are at potential risk.
3. Don’t scale before you’re ready
With the lean startup method, getting to market is all about speed. However, when you have launched, speed is not as critical.
What does this mean for your startup? It means you shouldn’t scale up before you’re ready to do so. Scaling up before your time can either mean you can’t keep up with customer demand, or there isn’t enough demand to keep you afloat.
Take Doughbies, a cookie delivery service in the US. The business ended up with $670,000 worth of funding in a short amount of time, but found it didn’t have enough customers to sustain growth.
Don’t force growing your business; let it happen when you’re ready to do so.
4. Don’t compare apples to oranges
Different businesses will hit each stage at different times, and there is often debate about where certain brands are. As an example, is Apple at the growth or maturity stage? It’s hard to say without all the data.
It’s important to keep track of your competitors (more on that later) and understand that they may not be at the same stage of the lean startup circle as you are.
5. Think at least two steps ahead
While it’s important to think about where you are in the circle at the moment, it’s also essential to plan as far ahead as possible. This will help you prepare for every contingency.
Let’s say you are in the maturity stage. It’s important to know what you will do when your business starts to decline. Will you sell up or try to continue as long as possible?
6. Keep your customers sweet
Customers mean profits, and profits mean growth. This means it’s vital to retain as many customers as you can over the lifecycle of your business.
This is especially true in later stages, where an increase in competition can mean more reasons for buyers to jump ship.
Even a 5% rise in customer retention can lead to a 75% increase in profits, so it’s critical to ensure loyalty. High-quality customer service, a great experience and providing value to your customers’ lives will go a long way.
7. Watch your competitors
When you launch your product or service, you will likely not have much competition. However, as more people become aware of you, more competing businesses will appear.
As an example, take Apple, who we mentioned before. Samsung used to provide application processors to Apple, however they then decided to compete with Apple as a business. This led to then-boss Steve Jobs launching a ‘thermonuclear war’ on Samsung. While the two firms have since formed a truce and Samsung has gone back to providing Apple with parts, they are still competitors.
It’s essential to monitor your competition to make sure they don’t become a threat to your business.
8. Reinvention is okay
We all know the sad tale of Blockbuster video. Huge in the 1990s, the business didn’t keep up with the times and refused to be bought out by Netflix. It failed to innovate and paid the ultimate price for doing so.
It’s important to know when to reinvent your business to stop it from stagnating. This can be anything from a rebrand to launching a new product or moving into new markets.
On that note…
9. Don’t be afraid to be creative
Thinking outside the box is a helpful trick, no matter where you are in the lean startup circle.
When you’re launching, it can help provide a unique selling point to your customers. When you’re in the maturity stage, it can help revitalise your business.
Your ideas don’t even have to be massive. An employee at Swan Vesta matchboxes helped the business save millions in the 1990s by putting the striking strip on one side of the box instead of both.
10. Quit while you’re ahead
If you want to sell your business, you need to do so while it’s still earning revenue. Otherwise, you could make a loss or even worse, not sell at all.
Four out of five businesses with less than $50 million in annual revenue don’t sell. These businesses left it too late and as a result, couldn’t convince prospective buyers to invest.
Keep an eye on your financial data, so you’re prepared to sell up at the right time.
In conclusion — start up lean… start up keen
“There is no finish line. So, love the journey.” — David Weekly
We hope this guide has given you more of an insight into the lean startup method, as well as what the lean startup circle is and how to navigate it.
Remember, just because your startup has reached the maturity stage of the circle doesn’t mean it’s the end. You can use the experience you have learned along the way to move on to a new idea and start again.
After all, that’s why it’s a circle rather than a straight line!
Want to know more about the lean startup method? Here are some of our favourite articles: