As you start your business, there’s lots to do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or confused about what to focus on and when.
At this stage, it will often feel like there’s a tension between setting your business up for smooth functioning in the medium and long-term, and bringing in some money in the short- term.
The good news is that it’s not only possible but also desirable to do both. The key is to recognize that
Nothing you do at the outset needs to be set in stone. Your first website will not be your last. Your first logo may not survive your first year in business. Your invoices, return policy, and quote documents will all become more refined with experience. So will your shipping procedures, distribution channels, and how you package and promote your products or services.
Your business will change and evolve over time.
As a new business owner, your focus should not be on trying to get everything “right” as you launch but rather on setting yourself up to learn, quickly and constantly, so you can adjust as you need to.
At the outset, it can be helpful to think in terms of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). As Eric Ries describes in The Lean Start-Up, an MVP is “a version of a new product that allows for the most learning possible for the least amount of effort.”
As you start to build your business, you can apply this concept to your products or services by, for example, launching fewer things or things with fewer features. You can also apply it to every aspect of your business from systems and processes to your web site, brochures, and business cards.
The idea is to move in the direction you want to go, but recognize that you don’t have to get there in one step. In fact, it may be better not to, because until you are actually selling, you’re working from incomplete information. Moving forward in smaller steps lets you adjust to feedback, unexpected opportunities, or roadblocks.
Let’s say you’re starting an online business that will eventually need a sophisticated email marketing and contact management system. To start, consider a “minimum viable” system, like MailChimp (free) or AWeber (inexpensive), which are easy to learn and meet the needs of most new businesses. You can upgrade later, as business needs demand.
While the details of start-up will be different depending on the type of business you are in, the “minimum viable” approach will help you find the shortest, most effective route to revenue while setting you up to evolve intelligently over time.
It has the added advantage of taking some of the pressure off as you start your new business.