Anthony Shivakumar
13 Jul 2017

12 reasons why following the lean startup method is not enough


Are you struggling to get your startup working? Are you thinking of starting your own company and not sure if you have what it takes? Or, are you looking for the next best tactic in business, that will get your startup to move to the next level?
 
There are many resources on how to start a business. Tactics, ideas and everything necessary to give you the perfect game plan to start the next billion-dollar company. And yet, 99% in spite of all the resources, startups fail. What is the missing formula?
I am no different. I have always wanted to start a company and transition from being a wantrepreneur to an entrepreneur.  Yet, to make that shift is arguably the most difficult challenge. So let me start off by telling you this “you do not need tactics”. What you need is the hard truth, why you are unfit to start a business.

Having a business mind is a skill. No skill is developed by tactics alone. Developing a skill at a very elite level requires behavioural changes, mindset shifts and expanding your personality. And it can take years to develop it. If you blindly follow tactics without the proper mindset, you won’t be executing those tactics the way they ought to be executed.  Let me give you an example: Build iterate, measure. Those are the key concepts of Lean startup. There is nothing wrong with this concept. But let’s dig a few layers deeper to really understand what it means. If you directly apply this concept it will not work.

1. You need to have an impeccable speed of implementation and speed of learning attitude.
2. You need to be social and great at networking
3. You need to have laser eye focus.
4. You need to have extremely high tolerance for pain.
5. You need to have a metrics mind rather than a bias or opinionated mind.
6. You need to have strong leadership skills. 
7. You need to have a great ability to reverse engineer everything ... And much more... 

Unless you have these behaviours in place, the above method will not work for you. Your behaviours are not aligned with the tactics. Your foundations are weak.
When you execute the build phase, you need to have mastery in a particular subject or great networking skills to form a team to build something for you.  In the measuring stage, you need to be data driven and not base your judgement on opinions. To reiterate this process, you need to learn quickly from the data you get and implement your findings quickly. Speed of implementation and learning will help you repeat this process. Do you have all these habits to execute lean startup

So when these gurus mention, I want to cut your learning curve so that you do not repeat the same mistakes they have made, that is the worst advice you can ever take. It is their mistakes that have helped them build the right behavioural foundation. Over which, when they became successful, it seems that merely applying the tactics will make you successful. No one talks about the behaviours, but here I know it is the most crucial part of being a successful entrepreneur. Everyone is different, and I know personally I am quite a slow learner and quite dumb. If you are not, you don’t need to read this. If you are like me, struggling to have a strong focus, constantly distracted, very slow to implement things and have pathetic social and networking skills, read what I did to overcome my behavioural obstacles.

1. Speed of implementation and speed of learning.
How many times have you found the information you were looking for and still wanted more information for more affirmation? Be it how to lose weight or gain weight, start a business, etc. You already got the game plan you wanted but that was not enough for you to take action. In today’s day and age, there is no shortage of information. There is a game plan for everything you want to achieve. And yet we still complain. Why? Speed of implementation. If you do not act upon the knowledge you got, quickly, your mind will start playing tricks on you. It will start to give its own opinion and you will have a bias towards following a given game plan. As a result, you will be looking for new game plans rather than executing on what you already know. This is detrimental. Use a game plan as a compass to start something. From there measure your progress and iterate accordingly.
IF you do not master the speed of implementation, starting a business will always be a mere dream. 

2. Have a good approach to mastery
Mastery is not a skillset a mind set or a behaviour. It requires a commitment for life. You have to be a student for life and put your ego out of the way.  Get into the habit of visualizing. Let me tell you how critical thinking is essential to becoming a master.
Most successful entrepreneurs are masters. They dissect every piece of information, approach it from different angles, apply their knowledge and see the results. They keep tweaking the information and are always hungry to find new ways. Let me give you an example. Back in the day, when we were working on ANTSAND, we followed the lean startup idea - just launch and we did. We had around 80 odd users on our application but soon we were unable to retain them. One major reason. We did not have any UI expert in our team. Just raw programming skills. Since the UI of our application sucked, no one wanted to use it. As a result, we lost our customers. I was heartbroken.  In my vocabulary, I used to state, I am not a designer and I am not interested in learning design. After losing all my users to bad design, I was and still am on a mission to understand and learning great design. I started to spend countless hours studying CSS and JavaScript from every great looking website. I was on a mission to make my biggest weakness my biggest strength. Today, when it comes to UI, I don’t feel ashamed, and would happily state I am on my way to regaining the customers I had lost. Great attitude towards mastery is the essence of every great startup. 
 
3. Find ways to keep yourself accountable
You have to be extremely disciplined when it comes to starting a business. The discipline of learning, executing, making decisions, and your habits. If you are not disciplined, what can be done in a few minutes or hours will unnecessarily take days, weeks, months or even years. Keeping yourself accountable, will take care of the 1st point too, the speed of implementation. Ways to keep yourself accountable.   

a. Follow, don’t break the chain rule.
The goal is to think of a task that you need to do, once accomplished put a cross mark on your calendar. Do this continuously for a couple of days. You will soon find a streak of crosses, a small chain. You goal now is not to break the chain. Below is an image I used when following the Wim-hof method.


b. Start with a why
Have and find a strong purpose why you want to start the business you are starting. It will give you inspiration and motivation. It will help you find your passion and question your decision. 

c. Imagine having a gun to your head
The ultimate of accountability. Treat every action you do, is it a high-value task or not. What would you do if a gun is pointed at you to get a task done? Surely you won’t be spending too much time focusing on low-value task.

4. Trade money for time
I purposely put speed of implementation as number 1. Urgency is the name of this game. If you need to get something done fast, and you don’t have the skills to do it, trade money for time. These should be activities and tasks that are important to do but not necessary to have it done in-house.  For e.g. you can outsource your accounting work to an accountant. They can keep track of all your book-keeping. Want pictures to be taken for your website, or want your profile picture, hire a photographer. Want a video to be recorded, hire a videographer. You don’t need to do these tasks to save money. Outsource it. Depending on the business you are in, you should know what you need to outsource and what you need to keep in-house. At ANTSAND, we cannot outsource web design and development. We have to keep it in-house. ON the other hand, photography, videography, accounting, we do outsource. 

5. Read, absorb implement

Having a good approach to mastery requires an inquisitive mind. You need to read a ton, absorb and implement. It goes without saying, reading gives access to some of the greatest minds and their ideas. If I want to know what it takes to build a Walmart, reading through Sam Walton’s autobiography, will give me that insight. I can get to know the way he thought, his decision making process and perhaps adopt those behaviours into my life and company. I don’t need to harp too much around this. Leaders and readers. 

6. Don’t judge the process. Trust it
How many products are there on losing weight? If you stop giving your opinion and follow any program to the letter, should you not see results? Yes, there is bad advice out there, but there are plenty good ones too. Similarly, In business, you need to trust the process. Follow any leader in your industry and trust their process. For e.g. If I want to study copywriting, I may buy a course from Gary Halbert or KopywritingKource. I would need to follow their advice to the letter before I can put my own spin on the process. Similarly for content marketing or web-design or programming. Get a book or course that explain the desired outcome you are looking for and follow what they teach. After you complete the course and do what they have told you do should you have your own opinions.

7. You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with
You need to spend time with intelligent people. Join a mastermind group or go for meetups to look for like-minded people. It is in your best interest to hang out with outstanding people. A company at the end of a day is a group of one or more passionate people giving great value to society and get rewarded in return. For your startup to give value, the 1st question to ask, are you giving value. Points 1-6 above teaches how to be a person of value. You will only attract who you are, not what you want. If you want to attract what you want, be that person whom you want to attract.   

8. Mental model
The below video sums up why we need mental models. This blog post explain the concepts in detail.

Farnam Street: Mental Models from Shane Parrish on Vimeo.


9. Systems Mindset
This is part of mental models, but it is worth expanding it as a separate point. You need to treat everything as a system in your company. Marketing as a system, sales as a system, your product as its own system and figure out ways how each system interacts with each other and make your company grow stronger. Let me give you an example. At ANTSAND marketing is one gigantic system. Marketing boils down to content marketing which is blogging, creating learning resource, direct mail marketing, email marketing.  A Sub-system, sharing on different social media platforms and pay per click advertisement to gain traction. The process of what to write, how to write, how to share, the tempo and speed when to deliver content is all part of the system. Based on these input variables you can measure how many users have signed or opted-in and given their email address. That could be the output measure.  By treating everything as a system you can measure the input and outputs and refine the system.

10. Invest in learning
This is the ultimate skill. Learning helps you expand your knowledge and will help you make better decisions. Invest in books, courses, mentorship, coaching and education. For e.g. If you are not good at socialising, perhaps join a public speaking course. Investing in yourself is the ultimate habit and will take you a long way in life.

11. Focus on high-value task
There are many facets to your business. How do you know what to focus on? At the end of the day, you need to focus on activities that give immediate value to your customers. Any task that does not help in accomplishing this one goal is a low-value task. Don’t waste time graphic-designing your letterhead or business card. Outsource it. Focus your effort on marketing and building a product and testing it with real users. Time is precious. If you invest in activities that will slow down the progress of your business that is not good. This is when you can read the Lean start-up as it will guide you on what task to focus. Have your behaviours in place and working on a high-value task even though it may be painful or cause discomfort, won’t be out of your reach. 

12. Momentum
When it comes to being disciplined, it is all about momentum.Either you are in a non-productive action taking momentum or you are in a productive action taking momentum. To be great at starting a company you need to be good at knowing when you are slacking off and when you need to get back on track. Momentum will help you to set your energy and actions in the direction you choose. Make sure you are in a momentum of an upward spiral is critical.


Conclusion.

What habits do you think will help you become a better entrepreneur? Share your comments below, I would love to hear your feedback.
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Jul 13, 2017 External
Very nice article!
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