START FAILING, ASAP
As a beginner entrepreneur, you should start failing as soon as possible. It is very rare, that an entrepreneur’s initial business idea is perfect and works for the customers the entrepreneur intended it to work for and that it also works in the way he or she intended it to work. Far more often an entrepreneur has to change and modify their idea. The target customer might be entirely different than what the entrepreneur originally planned or the product might end up solving a completely different problem than what the entrepreneur initially started to solve. The sooner the entrepreneur makes these changes, the less money and time he or she wastes. And in order to do the right changes, the entrepreneur has to fail. (Ries 2011)
When I say fail, I do not mean to completely risk and loose everything. In this case, failing means seeing what works for you, your product and your customers and in the other hand, seeing what doesn’t work by conducting experiments. It is important to note, as Ries explains in The Lean Startup, that one cannot find those things out by planning, surveying and hoping. One has to test their hypothesis of the product or of the business idea and see in action, whether something works or not. Often times it doesn’t work, at least not as planned, and that is the failure of an entrepreneur. However, this failure involves also validated learning about the product and the entrepreneur’s customers, which means that the failure will eventually lead to success, if the entrepreneur takes action based on it. (Ries 2011)
Before reading The Lean Startup, I saw entrepreneurship, success and failure more black and white. I thought, that either you are successful or you aren’t. That either your idea works or it doesn’t. But while reading the book, I realized, that this is not the case at all. Failure isn’t always a bad thing – an entrepreneur just has to learn from it and try again.
In The Lean Startup Ries explains about a minimum viable product. A minimum viable product is the entrepreneur’s idea put into practice with as little effort as possible. (Ries 2011, 76-77, 97). This way the entrepreneur can test the idea, see which parts of it work and which don’t, and then change the product before the next test.
When Ries talks about changing something dramatically, he uses the word pivot. Pivot means a sharp turn. (Ries 2011, 22). More often than having to pivot, an entrepreneur has to make smaller changes to the product, which Ries calls tuning the engine (Ries 2011, 23).
Tuning the engine in easy. It might be as simple as adding a small feature to the product or slightly changing the product’s design. These decisions are easy for an entrepreneur to make, based on the data that he has available. Why these are easy? They do not affect the entrepreneur’s original strategy and initial idea. They are minor changes to a detail, but the initial idea is preserved.
However, when an entrepreneur has to pivot, it is not as simple. When an entrepreneur conducts an experiment with their hypothesis of the product, he or she might find out something that he or she did not want to find out. It is difficult to learn that your hypothesis was wrong. In these situations, a dramatic turn, in other words pivot, might be necessary for the startup to be successful, or even necessary for the startup to survive.
An entrepreneur has to be wise and brave enough to make a pivot, when a pivot is needed. It requires wisdom to see, when a pivot is needed and to which direction the pivot should be made. It also takes courage for an entrepreneur to say: “I was wrong and I need to change my idea”. This is why some startups die, before they become successful. The entrepreneur didn’t pivot, when a pivot was necessary. In those cases, the entrepreneur has stuck with his or her original idea and ended up building something no one needs.
A wise and brave entrepreneur makes a pivot, when a pivot is necessary. They change their idea or come up with a completely new idea, when the original idea is not something that makes money.
“Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s a part of success.” – Arianna Huffington
Ries, E. 2011. The Lean Startup. 1st edition. The United States of America.