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Business Principle #3: Start small.

You've got a big dream for your business. How can you start small and grow smartly?

This post is part of a series on ten foundational principles of being an entrepreneur.

If you’re like most, you’ve probably got a big dream for your business (remember, that’s why the business starts with you). Big dreams are amazing. They push us to create businesses that our customers love, that meet needs, that provide our communities with character and quirk. 

But that vision you have in your head of what your business can become might also be daunting. It takes time to build. It takes resources. Also, what if you pour everything you have into it and it doesn’t work out? 

In our last article, we talked about the idea of customer discovery (asking your customer what they want instead of telling them what they need). Customer discovery is a great way to refine your business and help it succeed. Yet, there is another lean startup concept that can help even more.

Often referred to as a “minimum viable product” or “MVP,” we refer to it as starting small. The basic idea is this: get a basic version of your product or service in front of your customer—now. As quickly and cheaply as possible. What can you do today (invite friends over for cupcakes), next week (see if anyone wants to order a dozen), next month (pop-up sale) to get started? 

We love this approach because it helps you in incredible ways.

Overcome paralysis.

When you’re building that big vision, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the things you need to do. Product development. Pricing. Inventory. Marketing. Sales. You want to get all the details right, and it’s easy to get stuck.

One major benefit of starting small is that you don’t have to do it all. You can start with one initial, limited thing without having everything else figured out. Make a test version of one product. Share it with some friends. It’s really that simple.

Sometimes these small steps are all you need to do to get things moving on your business. The rest will follow.

Get better feedback. 

Have you had this experience? You’re working with someone on a project and you make a plan for what you’re going to create, how it will work, and what it will look like. The other person does their part, and when you see the first pass, it’s not what you envisioned. Even though it’s technically what you agreed upon, seeing it is very different than talking about it in the abstract.

While asking good questions of your customers is a must, handing them something real to react to will get you even better feedback. In experiencing a version of your product or service (even if it’s not perfect or complete!), they’ll be more likely to specify what they would want or how they would improve it.

Fail fast (and get it right more quickly).

What, failure?! Yes, failure. Starting small helps you uncover problems with your business quickly. The truth is, very few businesses get it right the first time. If you start small, you won’t invest too much into something that doesn’t work. Instead, you’ll see a much faster feedback loop that will enable you to make your business better in less time.  

Because you’re taking small steps and learning from each one, you can change courses quickly and build a business that will succeed. If you invest too much time or money into your business up front, the failure you experience could be catastrophic.

Dream big. But start small and grow smartly. You’ll be much more likely to build a viable business if you do.

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