I have heard a lot of talk lately about lean and iterative startups and I must say I fully agree with the approach. People seem to jump in with both feet before they even know if there is water in the pool. Starting small and releasing a product as quick as possible cuts out a lot of variables. The biggest of which is “Does a market exist?” The thing to remember as the provider of such a product or service is that even though you haven’t fully tweaked your offer you are still providing value. An iterative development model is a good safe way to explore new possibilities.
Small businesses are especially susceptible to losing a lot of time and money by chasing an idea that is not substantiated. It isn’t that difficult to raise enough funds to launch a business or new product line but if you are leveraging yourself you better know there are profits in your future.
I would not be surprised if part of the reason small businesses see such a high failure rate is in part due to the dynamic of; “Ready, Fire, Aim!”. I get it, the zeal many entrepreneurs have push them to action before they fully know what they are in for. The longer I study the world of business the more I have witnessed the reasoning of companies to or not to go after additional ventures and it has proved to me that there are often many hidden reasons why NOT to go after a given market.
Perfection Vs. Completion
Another benefit to the iterative approach is that projects get completed. We are currently working on the release of a new product and I find myself wrestling with making things perfect verses wrapping it up and getting it out there. I have to remind myself that absolute perfection will never exist and that I may be wasting time by not getting the product to the market. I know it is a successful habit to focus on one project at a time but If I am perfecting something based on a false assumption no matter how “perfect” I make it no one will care.
Often times a future concern may not be apparent until the product is in the final users hands. Your customers are your ultimate litmus test. They will tell you in a heartbeat if you are on point or not. Don’t view this as a bad thing, it is an opportunity to engage in dialog and find out what they really need.
An example: I was working on a proprietary ERM project and needed to create a back ordering feature that would allow the sales staff to enter the parts shipped and create an automatic back order. This was an easy enough task but the ERM software was so involved that I couldn’t possible account for every third and fourth order effect. I produced the feature and launched the new version as quickly as I could. Come to find out a date that needed to be updated which the sales staff “always” updated was not populated and production thought the sky was falling. Word got back to me and I fixed the hole. The point is I could have combed the complete ERM suit for a year and would have never found out about this issue as it was related to the user’s mode of operation. By releasing it the use of the software brought the bugs to the surface.
Both the markets and the providers are not static, everyone changes. I heard that on average a company can change its direction as many as 5 times before it finds the path that leads them to fortune and fame. Microsoft for example got its start in monitoring traffic. Their needs for an IC lead them into computing and ultimately operating systems. Remember there are usually many markets that can be served by your existing set of core competencies.
As you provide your product or service keep the dynamic nature of the market at the forefront of your mind. If you are not ready for a looming change and it hits there are ten people behind you waiting to pick up your market share. Don’t look at this as a negative reality embrace it and work with it. It is from this dynamic nature many opportunities will pop up. If you adopt a constant state of change as a normal business practice you will be hard pressed to find yourself outdated.
Change is constant and how you react to each change will determine your ultimate success or failure. The new buzz words are lean and iterative but these models have long been in effect; take a look at the software and book industries. There is always a newer version or release around the corner. Wait a minute, I never looked at the current version as incomplete, I always looked at the newest version as improved. Aha, perhaps now you can turn your work in progress into an early release and offer each fix as a new an improved version, at a premium of course.
If you found any of the above information to be helpful leave us a comment and let us know. We also love to hear your perspectives.