How to Validate Your Business Idea: The Lean Startup By Eric Ries

Starting a business is a very daunting task. However, with this week’s tips, you can start by validating first your business idea before you even go full blast with your business. Here are some tips from the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries:

Draft the User Experience Vision. It is crucial to develop the journey of the user. If possible, draft it with functional specifications and UI/UX wireframe. It will serve as a high-level plan, so you will be able to consider all aspects that you can offer to your target market. The photo below is the actual brainstorming notes for our Snap Accounting project at Hilsoft.

Identify Critical Assumptions. With Snap Accounting, we assume that small businesses, who want to make their back-end transaction processing efficient, are not tech-savvy enough to setup existing self-service accounting platform. So our critical assumption is that they will need a platform where they can start to record their invoices or checks in a snap.

Build an Early Version to Validate a Critical Assumption (Concierge MVP, Smoke Screen MVP). In 2016, we started by forking the accounting module from our existing ERP suite. We quickly replaced the UI/UX but launched it without the self-service option yet. We offered it to accounting firms but did the customer onboarding manually. That is the concierge Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach. The smokescreen MVP is where you develop marketing campaigns without a finished product yet. It is like a pre-selling or pre-order style of MVP.

Release and Measure. After reaching 100 active users in the Concierge MVP of Snap, that’s the time we developed the self-service option (hilsoftsnap.com). We are now in the process of posting online ads and measuring the feedback of the market. At the moment, we get about 5-7 new registrations per week, with about 1-2 accounts that remain active.

Pivot or Persevere. This stage is where you do iterations in your product and tweaks your marketing efforts. I recommended that you continue to do that cycle until you reach your ultimate goal of either your revenue goals or investment for growth. Perseverance is the key.

Why Would You Reinvent Yourself and How?

I’ve reinvented myself so many times from an 8 to 5 employee to a startup, from a full service IT company to an enterprise software business and now going for a SAAS company. I’ve tried photography, music recording, video editing, blogging, drawing, writing, triathlon, and I know for myself that I will never stop innovating and reinventing myself.

We all have a way to measure our life, business, or at work. Income, for example, is a decent measurement stick. Some people measure their life by their emotions like happiness, regret, energy, etc.

In any case, one primary reason for reinventing ourselves is when these indicators are not happening as you expect it to happen.

Another reason is when you are meeting your goals, but you want growth. Or yes, you are achieving your income goals or you have a lot of money, but your happiness level is low.

The time factor is important in considering reinvention. Is it too soon or should I cut the losses?

Some people are content and complacent with life already, which is the best scenario, especially when they are already happy. But some others, like me, always have the itch to grow.

So the first step is to DECIDE that you are reinventing yourself. Accept the fact that it will not be easy to change things, especially when you are used to what you’ve been doing for years.

It may not necessarily be starting from scratch. If you have a business, change your business model, change your methodology, or change your culture.

If you’re an employee, then look for functions in your company that you think you will excel, and you will be happy, then go for it.

Once you have decided to reinvent yourself, then prepare yourself by setting a 3 to 5-year target. You won’t be able to achieve anything significant overnight. You may need to take one step backward to move forward two steps ahead. Save money and stop spending things you cannot afford.

The next step is to spend hours learning about the path you wish to take. Read books, join webinars, and be an expert of that thing that you want to pursue.

Once you know the basics, then join local communities of the subject. Go out every day to learn and build your network. Offer services for free until things build up through word of mouth. Then you can start thinking about revenue goals.

Manage your expectations. As they say, things may fail, but the important thing is getting up, learning from mistakes and reinventing yourself over and over again.

Creative Ways to Change Habits For Success

I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD. It’s been bugging me since I was a child. I had these habits and compulsions before that were not contributing to my productivity. It took me a while before I researched it and learned how to stop bad habits. There were techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT, mindfulness meditation from Buddhism and self-hypnosis. They were all helpful to me over time. But on top of these, there are practical ways to break these bad habits. Here are some:

  1. Workout motivation – One cause of our laziness to workout is because we are visualizing the things we need to do before we exercise such as preparing our gear, driving to the gym and doing a common workout program that is not exciting anymore. Create then a habit to sleep on your workout clothes. It may also get you motivated if you search and set an online workout program online before you sleep. A walking distance gym will even break your habit of not exercising because you don’t have to drive before you do the actual workout. Another way of doing it is to put some dumbbells in your hallway or near the bedroom that will trigger you to start moving.
  2. Eating junk food and sweets. Replace your sweets into fruits and ready-to-eat vegetables/salad. Changing the content of your fridge is the best way to avoid junk food because even if you crave for them at night, it will give you a hard time getting one and rather eat fruits in your fridge. Again, changing your environment is the key. Cues trigger bad habits and having stored junk food is a cue for you to make the habit. This also applies to smoking and drinking.
  3. Mindless scrolling in social media. There’s a tool “news feed eradicator” that help you set up your Facebook newsfeed to positive quotes instead of the noise around the platform. Another practical way is to allocate time in your day to browse social media and make sure to set time limits. I do mine only after my morning workout for 5 minutes. So I removed my FB app and used only the desktop version to browse.
  4. Reading. Reading doesn’t have to be an actual book read. I listen to audiobooks, podcasts, and YouTube videos almost every time I drive, walk going to work, running or exercising. Not having the time to read is never an excuse on this day of age. These mini learnings will result in an increased level of inspiration and motivation to achieve your goals.
  5. Sick leave or not going to work. Again, it is all about changing your environment and cues. Many people don’t feel like going to work because they have not defined their WHY. Why am I going to work? Why am I working on this task? If you don’t have a reason for something, then there’s no fuel to do it. So change your environment by seeking answers to your WHYs. Bombard yourself with positive affirmations, quotes, and inspiration of the answers to that why to trigger cues of working. In my case, I always visualize smiles on our clients’ faces if they get to use and benefit in our products. I imagine them thanking me for what we have done for them.

In summary, if you want to break bad habits, change your environment and setup cues that will trigger positive habits.

Are You Bored? Try Reading Books

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”  This is a great quote from George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones.

The first-ever book I’ve read was The Godfather during high-school. Growing up, I was never tagged as a book reader until I had that book. From there on, I never stopped looking for something to read every time I pass by a bookstore. I shifted to ebooks, Kindle, Audible and now even Blinkist, a curation of bestseller books in a shortened form.

To me, if you complain that you are bored but you don’t read, then you have no right to complain.

But some books look interesting to read at the beginning.  In many cases, I stop in the middle because maybe the content was not what I expected or the writing was crappy.

So today, I am thrilled to share with you the books I finished reading and I recommend. Most of them are inspirational and mind-opening for us to pursue creativity and innovation.

This list is in random order. Items with the asterisk are highly recommended:

  • Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne Dyer
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
  • The Everything Store (Jeff Bezos and the Age of the Amazon) by Brad Stone*
  • Shoe Dog (Nike Story) by Phil Knight*
  • The Airbnb Story by Leigh Gallager
  • Unf*ck Yourself by John Bishop*
  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown
  • Principles by Ray Dalio*
  • Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time*
    Drive by Daniel Pink
  • Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuck
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris
  • Sales Management: Simplified by Mike Weinberg*
  • Made to Stick by Chip Heath
  • The CEO Next Door by Tahl Raz, Kim Powell, and Elena Botelho
  • Built to Last by Jim Collins*
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Good to Great by Jim Collins