So, here we are. The fourth and final chapter in my personal take on Entrepreneurship.

How did we get here? Well, first we had a great idea to solve a problem and made it into a product. Next, we grew and scaled up. Afterwards, we built a brand. Now, things are going perfect, so it’s time to go lean and get ready to exit, stage left.

A story about entrepreneurship (4/4): Go lean and exit

By going lean, I mean Lean Methodology, of course. This little piece of wonder, which applies just about everywhere in your process.

Don’t overwork yourself

Most of us have had a brilliant idea, at some point. The incredibly hard part is making it into a product and watching it grow and scale, eventually becoming a brand. But there’s no need to be at the office 24/7 and live off junk food and energy drinks.

How to improve your working hours

There are a few key points that will help you immensely in sifting through “waste” and working more quickly and efficiently.

  • Motivation: arguably the most important one. For example, if you have something to do at home after work, then you’ll find a way to improve your methods, so you don’t have to work until late.
  • Excessive work has side effects: this needs to be acknowledged. There’s nothing worse than the effects this can have, such as unnecessary persistence, lack of creativity, and diminished moral.
  • Follow the road map you’ve set: let people get acclimatized to all the changes that you periodically implement. And if they cannot eventually adapt, then you can start thinking about how to modify them.

The above tips alone, will allow you to greatly improve your workflow.

“But when something goes wrong, don’t we have to work late to find out what the cause was?”, you may say.

Not necessarily. In two words, Genchi Genbutsu. It means “actual place, actual thing” in Japanese and it’s the main principle of Toyota’s production system. Part of it, is “The 5 Whys Method”. Let’s see how it works.

Go lean. Go with “The 5 Whys Method”

This is Toyota’s troubleshooting tool. It’s a unique adaptive force for any type of business. With the five whys, you can find out the actual root cause of a problem.

Say you’re producing some type of software, and in a new release, a feature that was once available to your customers, was inadvertently disabled. With the five whys, you can ask:

  1. Why? Because, a particular server failed.
  2. Why did the server fail? Because, an obscure subsystem was used in the wrong way.
  3. Why was it used in the wrong way? Because, the engineer who used it, did not know how to use it properly.
  4. Why did not s/he know? Because, he was never trained for this.
  5. Why was not s/he trained? Because, his manager believed that he and his engineers were too busy to train new engineers.*

(*the example above is taken from Eric Ries’ book “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses”)

In the example above, what would initially have been perceived as a purely technical problem, as it turned out, very quickly, to be a human administrative issue.

In essence, you learn and adapt your processes accordingly. Then, if you’ve done everything right, the time comes when you can exit.

What about an Exit Strategy?

Firstly, calm down. There is no need for rush. In fact, don’t actively pursue this, until you really have an option not to exit.

You can shape an exit strategy, after you have established the validity of the assumptions you have made, about the unique value of your minimum viable product and the way you will achieve growth. In general, once you have all the necessary processes in place, to achieve it.

On the other hand, making a difference is always a successful exit strategy. If, instead of planning big sales and ratings, you were planning to make a difference, it would be a real change in the game. It would be a “Change the World” type of philosophy.

And that’s it! What a journey eh?

Oh, one more thing! Please, don’t make the mistake of becoming too emotionally attached to your product. If you do, you may pass up some great opportunities to exit.

Thanks for listening.

Panagiotis Sarantopoulos Panagiotis Sarantopoulos

The Starttech Ventures Head of Content Marketing. Studied Science of Computing at the University of Huddersfield in UK, specialising in Animation for Multimedia Systems. He has worked as a Multimedia Author for IBM Hellas and as an Adobe Certified Instructor and Support Technician for Adobe Systems software at Anodos SA. He has also worked at various Advertising Agencies, as a Web/ActionScript developer.