I just recently finished reading The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries. My primary reason for reading it was with my startup, The Unstuck Group, in mind. I thought I’d share the highlights from my reading, though, it case it helps you assess the health of your organization.
I pulled several quotes from the book below and included the questions that they generated in my mind. With that, here are:
13 Questions to Assess the Health of Your Startup
- Are you executing on your ideas? – “The fundamental activity of a startup is to turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere.”
- Have you become entrenched? – “The amount of time a company can count on holding on to market leadership to exploit its earlier innovations is shrinking, and this creates an imperative for even the most entrenched companies to invest in innovation.”
- Do you know who your “customers” are and what they want? – “We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.”
- Are you building solutions to “customer” problems? – “I try to push my team to first answer four questions: 1. Do consumers recognize that they have the problem you are trying to solve? 2. If there was a solution, would they buy it? 3. Would they buy it from us? 4. Can we build a solution for that problem?”
- Are you building something that nobody wants? – “Remember, if we’re building something that nobody wants, it doesn’t much matter if we’re doing it on time and on budget.”
- Do you know when to adapt your strategy? – “What differentiates the success stories from the failures is that the successful entrepreneurs had the foresight, the ability, and the tools to discover which parts of their plans were working brilliantly and which were misguided, and adapt their strategies accordingly.”
- Are trying to launch new ideas perfectly? – “Early adopters are suspicious of something that is too polished.”
- Are people telling (inviting) their friends? – “Important question: what would be required to get customers to engage with the product and tell their friends about it?”
- Are you willing to admit you’re stuck…and do something about it? – “One of the most dangerous outcomes for a startup is to bumble along in the land of the living dead.”
- Are you riding a dead horse? – “We want to keep believing in our ideas even when the writing is on the wall. This is why the myth of perseverance is so dangerous.”
- Do you know whether or not you’re making progress? – “Without a clear-eyed picture of your current status—no matter how far from the goal you may be—you cannot begin to track your progress.”
- Are you focusing too much on promotions rather than your “product?” – “If you are building the wrong thing, optimizing the product or its marketing will not yield significant results.”
- Is your current success a barrier to needed change? – Pivots are a permanent fact of life for any growing business. Even after a company achieves initial success, it must continue to pivot.
My startup actually celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this summer. That may mean it doesn’t qualify as an official startup anymore. That said, I think these questions still apply.
In case you’re curious, I think question number six is the one that our team is wrestling with the most right now. How about you?