THE LIKELIHOOD that your startup will be proftable is infuenced heavily by the speed at which you launch. The number of tasks you do in those arly months is more crucial to
success than the type of tasks you
do, although anything involving
customer contact helps, according
to the Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics, which tracks
samples of new entrepreneurs.
“Those implementing more startup activities faster are more likely
to see profts,” says Paul Reynolds,
the study’s coordinating principal
Beyond the specifc tasks that
PSED examines—things like developing fnancial projections and
obtaining supplier credit—startup
activities tend to fall into two
categories. The frst is open-minded discovery. Initially, everything is assumption: fnancials,
customers, go-to-market strategy.
The only thing you know for
certain is your own strengths, and
even there you may be surprised.
This exploratory approach is
at the core of Lean Startup. It
is responsible for the disdain, in
some quarters, for business plans.
It is behind what’s called “efectual
entrepreneurship,” a research-
based approach that considers
launching a business to be largely
an act of improvisation.
The second type of startup
activity recognizes that entrepreneurship is social. Doubtless you
have lived with your idea for a long
time. Now that you’re launching,
you have to get out of your
head. Figure out whom you will
draw on, in what capacity, and
how those relationships will work.
Input from partners, advisers,
potential customers, and others
brings new perspectives and shape
to the enterprise. Networking is
like raiding the fridge: seeing who
might ofer you warehouse space
or logo-design services or an introduction to a potential customer.
To help you fulfll this most
Walk a mile in your
exciting of New Year’s resolutions,
we compiled a list of the key steps
you must take in your frst 90 days.
The idea behind minimum viable
product is to get your ofering as
quickly as possible into the hands
of customers to generate feedback.
But frst, you have to make sure
you are solving the right problem.
Market data and surveys won’t tell
you that. For those insights, you
have to get as close to the customer
experience as possible. Doing so
before you commit to a solution
may save you a lot of frustration.
Jon Kolko is founder of the Austin
Center for Design. His most recent
book is Creative Clarity: A Practical Guide for Bringing Creative
Thinking Into Your Company.
YOUR FIRS T JOB is to know your customer. Not just who she is but also
what she wants, what she does,
and how she feels about what she
does. That means embedding in
customers’ lives or work.
Ideally, you will develop a kind
of master-apprentice relationship,
in which you are the apprentice.
Ask the customer-master to let
you observe her in action. Even
better, have her take you on a tour
of the relevant section of her
world. Reach out to friends and
family on Facebook for permission
to watch them do laundry or
winterize their boats. Or ask
potential customers if you can
spend time in their ofces or on
their factory foors.
Once there, ask open-ended
questions about the experience
and workfow. Can you show me?
Why? Can I try that? Maybe the
answer to that last one is no. But
if it’s yes, think how quickly you’ll
build empathy with the person
who does it all day long, whose life
you are trying to improve.
This process provides a pragmatic understanding of pain points
and an emotional context that lets
you see things through your customers’ eyes. Simply interviewing
them isn’t enough. People who do
something repeatedly may develop
a kind of expert’s blindness that
leaves out or obscures critical
It’s 2018, and you are really doing it. You have long
imagined your product on the endcap at Walmart
and practiced what you’ll say when Mark Cuban
grills you about your competitive edge. But this year,
you are fnally launching a business. Where do
you start? Leigh Buchanan asked some of the top
business minds what you should do in the frst
90 days, a crucial time in your business’s life. Get
these early steps right and you’ll create a sound
foundation for a proftable, growing business.