Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Lean Startup Toilet Bowl Trap of Getting Nowhere Slowly

Progress.  That's a nice word.  "We're making progress...", says the workers cutting the road through the forest.   Then, a wise leader climbs a tree and says "but you're going the wrong way!"

That's all fine and good, and a good lean startup does this often.  It's called "Pivot" and it's central to the Lean Startup concept.  But what happens when you just keep pivoting?  Aren't you chasing your tail?  Suddenly, you have a road to nowhere, or worse, a road that goes in circles.

This is a TRAP!  Your "lean startup" just got into a slowly dieing spiral of doom.  Your dream is getting flushed in the toilet because you keep climbing that tree and realizing that you're going the wrong way!

Here's an example of the Lean Startup in the Toilet Bowl Trap:

  1. You build a website and collect some preorders (yeah, progress!)
  2. You ship the preorders and get feedback from customers that they love/hate certain features (yeah, progress!)
  3. You fix the product based on the feedback, and nobody buys it (yeah, progress!)
  4. You PIVOT to a new product and collect some preorders (yeah, progress!)
  5. Jump to step #2, repeat, all the way to the toilet's flush.


So, how do you get out of this toilet bowl trap?

First, remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting different results.

You have to do something different!

In many cases, the problem is not 'your product' or 'your idea', but the marketing instead!

Instead of constantly pivoting on "product" you might need to pivot on some of the other 4 P's of Marketing:

  1. Place: Maybe your lack of orders is because it's not available where the customers are... and particularly where the customers are that are in the buying mood for what you offer!
  2. Price: Maybe your lack of orders is related to the pricing or pricing structure of your product.  Maybe you need to sell it in parts, or with different options.  It could even be too low!
  3. Promotion: Maybe your lack of orders is related to how you are attracting customers.  Sure, you're getting a lot of 'views', but are those customers: the right ones, in the right mood (buying), with the right goals, with the right problems, with enough education about your solution, etc.?  Or Maybe, your just not reaching your right audience, or just not 'appealing' enough to their needs (messaging).
So, avoid the Toilet Bowl Trap: run Lean Startup Experiments on more than just 'the product'...

Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Effort and Leadership - 3 Tips to Motivate your Employees

I am very proud to be able to train in ATA Martial Arts with Chief Master Niblock at his school here in Austin, Texas (Round Rock).  Today, like many other days, Chief Master Niblock gave us not only a great physical workout, but also great lessons in life and character.

[paraphrased] "You have students or employees who don't give 100% effort, but have you looked in the mirror.  YOU, the leader, need to be giving 100%, or  you can't expect it from your students." said Chief Master Niblock.  "It has to be every day.  Nobody wants an employee who only gives 100% on Mondays, so you have to give 100% every day if you expect it in return."

I was inspired, as I often am when getting to train with such an awesome instructor.  We all need our mentors and people to look up to, and Chief Master Niblock is that to me.   Without further ado, I give you 3 tips to motivate your employees, inspired by Chief Master Niblock.

  1. Lead from the Front  -  You need to be giving 100% effort every day, not just on Mondays!  You cannot and should not expect more from your employees (even in a Startup) than what you are willing to give yourself.  And you need to give this effort "from the front" so that everyone can see you.
  2. You set the Tone - If you are down, or having a bad day, it's likely they will too.  Somehow, you've got to find silver linings, shiny day's ahead.  Positivity is contagious too... you just have to set the tone.
  3. Be Fanatical about your Vision - Especially for a startup, you have to be absolutely focused on your vision and achieving it.  This means saying 'no' to all the distractions that come up, and saying 'yes' to anything that might move your vision forward.  Every day, you need to share your vision with the team, loudly, proudly, and with that Positivity.  Your vision will become contagious too.  Suddenly people will start making decisions in an empowered way that will move forward your cause, not just "work for work's sake".
Harlan Beverly Training in ATA Martial Arts
Bonus Tip for Investors/Board Members - This tip is for board members and investors...  you need to make sure you consider the Agency Problem.  You cannot expect your startup Management Teams to put forward 100% effort if they are not incentivized to do so.  That means believing in their vision/mission, and making it worthwhile if they succeed.  The trickle down effect of an improperly incentivized management can lead to an entire organization that's not giving 100% or is giving it to the wrong things.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

7 Key Lessons Entrepreneurs Should Learn from CES 2016

I just got back from my 10th year of CES the biggest consumer electronics show in the USA.  Here are the things entrepreneurs messed up heartily!

1. Lesson one

Be prepared for success. At least a dozen startups in Eureka park (the startup area of CES) had run out of fliers and business cards by day 3.  Seriously?  There are investors walking around as well as buyers and distribution and you have no card for them?  (P.s. See our website is not an answer). Kinko s is an answer.

2. Lesson two

Not everyone is important. In fact most of the joes walking around cannot help you.  So, what do you do?  You have to ask people about them before you tell them all about you.  If you learn they are a reporter, great! Share the vision.   If you learn they run a recipe website (like me) maybe you don't need to share your founding story, just tell me what you do and be polite.

3. Lesson three

For goodness sakes make it easy for people tonl figure out what you do!  I should not have to read your entire wall and your brochure before I it out.   Make it a one line statement, big and bold and in front of me.  This will help a lot with 1 and 2 above by the way...  The important people will find you. Others who figure you out may not need that flier you ran out of.  And for goodness sakes don't make it a goal to hand out fliers!

4. Lesson four

Have a goal!  Many of the 200'or so startups I spoke to had no goal for the show, none.   "We're just here showing our stuff off" is not a goal.  Get Press, sales, investment, leads, those are goals.

5. Lesson five

Let people know your goal and do stuff that will help you get that goal.   An hourly giveaway is not going to attract investors.  A party?  Hah!   How about setup meetings in advance?  How about have a "investor area" of your booth to chat with any that come
by?

6. Lesson six

Do not drink on the job.   It's sloppy and shows a lack of selfcontrol.  If you drink, do so after the meetings and don't overdo it... CES is a long show, and being late to open just looks really really bad!

7. Lesson seven

Don't hire or bring show workers who know nothing about your products or services.  Especially don't leave them alone.  "Im sorry, nobody is here who can answer that" is not a good answer.  You just lost a huge sale, forever.

So, was CES a good show for me?  Yes!  I leave CES 2016 feeling great about technology!  The future gets cooler every year, and it is no surprise nor secret that it's startups leading the charge!



Monday, December 28, 2015

Harlan Teaching "Lean Startup Essentials" at the University of Texas Austin - Spring 2016

This coming semester, I will be teaching Lean Startup Essentials!   The 2-3:30pm section (section 2) still has seats open.  

NOTE: THIS COURSE IS OPEN TO ALL UT STUDENTS ( from any College, not just McCombs School of Business )!

LEAN STARTUP ESSENTIALS (MAN 337) - SPRING 2015
 Tuesdays & Thursdays from    2pm-3:30 in CBA 4.344

If you are a UT Student, you can login with this link to register:

https://utdirect.utexas.edu/apps/registrar/course_schedule/20162/results/?ccyys=20162&search_type_main=INSTR&instr_last_name=Beverly&instr_first_initial=H&x=34&y=20

Want to know what this course is all about?   
First, hear what some students had to say:
  "great class"
  "awesome teacher"
  "course was awesome"
  "most practical class ... at UT"
  "unique content and very useful"

Okay, interested?  Here's the course description:

This course uses the "Lean Startup" concept as a canvas to give students the essential knowledge needed to either start their own business or join a startup and be a major contributor.  In addition to learning about entrepreneurship, the legal aspects of starting a business, and the life and experience of working at a startup, students will get hands-on skills they can use in any startup or to start their own business.  Every student will practice these skills in-class by building a real startup business (based on a pre-set collection of products and services).  This course focuses on the “Lean Startup” methodology, but will also cover the traditional new venture development and the entrepreneurial process (problem identification, innovation, business plans, fund raising, launching, and managing a startup). This course will also cover the essential knowledge derived from entrepreneurship research covering proven keys to success as well as scientific research about what it takes in an individual and group to succeed in entrepreneurship.  The final project is one of the pre-set business ideas, up, running, and operating in the build-measure-learn cycle that is the core of the “Lean Startup” methodology.

Prerequisites: None.


Need more?  Here's a link to the syllabus for this Spring: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B19bmn5A18VtMTVONVpoSFl4TFU/view?usp=sharing 

Got a question, email me!
harlan.beverly@mccombs.utexas  (and dot edu of course)

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