Productivity is extremely important for startups, because they frequently operate on a limited budget and with limited resources. They also need to effectively manage their time, because most startups require a few years on average to start seeing significant profit that they can comfortably live off of. Here are some Lean tricks that you can apply to make the most out of your time, money, and resources.
What is Lean?
Lean is an approach that focuses on maximizing customer value and value for the organisation itself with limited resources. It focuses on eliminating wasteful practices, streamlining processes, optimising workflow, finding the root causes of problems and coming up with the most efficient solutions to them.
In the case of a startup, waste can consist of the following:
Defects: processes that need be micromanaged, corrected, and re-worked, or repeated
Delays: lags in how fast information, a product, or service is delivered, which can cause customer dissatisfaction
Lack of communication: miscommunication, unclear instructions, using too much jargon
Missed opportunities: not answering to questions or queries, or responding rudely to complaints
Overproduction: doing or producing more than necessary to deliver to customers
How Can Lean Improve the Productivity of Your Startup?
Applying the principles of Lean to your startup can save you time and money, make you succeed faster, teach your team to collaborate more efficiently, and help you avoid mistakes and failures.
What Are the Lean Principles?
Generally, Lean distinguishes 5 principles:
1. Value: What can you offer to your customers?
2. Value stream: What do you need to offer it?
3. Flow: What is the work process?
4. Pull: How much of your product or service is needed and when?
5. Perfection: How can you keep improving and advancing?
Next, let’s take a look at how you can use them to increase the productivity of your startup.
Increase Your Productivity with Lean Principles
1. Identify Value
No matter what you offer, you won’t be able to succeed if there is no value to the customers. If you don’t offer value, you risk failing to attract the attention of your audience.
Therefore, you need to identify what distinctive value your startup can offer, and you need to do it from the perspective of your customers.
What are your potential clients’ needs?
What problems do they experience and how can you solve them?
How can you do it differently, more effectively, or better than your competition?
What objections can they have toward your product or service and how can you address them?
What is going to set you apart from your competitors?
This will help you identify what your unique standpoint is, how much you should be charging for your product or service, and it will also prepare you for any future problems and save time and resources for you to solve them.
2. Map Out Value Streams
You may need to develop and perfect your product or service, put together a website and create social media pages, design a marketing strategy, create content and graphics, and more – usually with extremely limited time and resources.
Also, you need to determine all that you need in order to reliably deliver that offer: knowledge, abilities, skills, materials, tools, etc. Map out exactly what is needed and which team member can do what, with or without your help.
3. Create a Flow
Spending time and resources on unnecessary tasks or redoing poorly accomplished tasks creates waste. This can be minimized or even avoided altogether if you standardize processes and create a workflow or a protocol for each of the processes.
To do so, you may need to ask for help or hire an expert for areas that you aren’t experienced in or lack the skills or knowledge for. This may require resources, but it will actually save you time and money in the long run.
4. Pull Based on Customer Demand
This means that you only produce the service or product when it is needed. It is important for two reasons:
1. You don’t want to have a surplus of product that has no demand and can go to waste.
2. You need to make sure you can deliver what you promise, or you risk dissatisfying or even losing your clients and/or customers.
In order to be able to estimate what you need to understand your customers, let’s return to Principle #1: Identify Value. You need to know when and how much of your product or service your customers will require.
5. Seek Perfection
Continuous improvement is paramount to Lean. Make sure to continuously revisit the Lean principles and refine them accordingly. If one year into your entrepreneurship you realize that the workflow you created isn’t as effective as you initially envisioned, feel free to return to it and optimize it accordingly.
If you’re willing to take your Lean initiative a step further, keep in mind that Enterprise Ireland and the IDA have a Lean Business Offer, which offers financial support to organisations that want to initiate or continue their Lean Journey. You can also check out Lean Lite, a free eLearning module that will introduce to you the basics of Lean.
Michael Norton is a content marketing strategist for Acclino, an eLearning platform certified by the University of Limerick that specializes in teaching companies how to drive down costs, increase efficiency, and serve their customers more effectively.