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  • Writer's pictureJosh Wymore

1+1: Minimum viable products + lean startups

Hey there! Here’s one leadership idea and one resource I’ve found beneficial this week:

A grapefruit sliced in half

1 idea: Minimum viable products

My journey into entrepreneurship was a winding one. For years, I’d dreamt of writing books, coaching leaders, and doing keynote speeches, but that felt like a different world. I was in my late twenties with a different career, and no one was asking me to start this business. I would talk about the dream with my friends, write down keynote ideas as they came, and study great speakers. But beyond those small steps, my business wasn’t going anywhere.


Then one day, a former student asked me if I’d consider doing some workshops for her company. That was the nudge I needed to form my LLC and make this venture official. But what next?


Fortunately, I had Eric Ries’s book The Lean Startup on my shelf. In this book, Ries argues that one of an entrepreneur's first moves is creating a minimum viable product (MVP). 


Ries explains that many new ventures flounder because they fail to solve the right problems for their customers. Founders can spend hundreds of hours quietly building the "perfect" product or service only to find out shortly after launch that no one really wants what they’re selling. And because they’ve sunk so much time and money into their initial offering, they may not be able to pivot even if they want to. Their ship is sunk before it even sets sail.


Ries’s alternative is to build an MVP: a barely functional model of the product or service that entrepreneurs can sell right away. This offering is viable enough to be sold but nimble enough to pivot. The product designers can then study how customers respond. What do they like about it? What’s missing? Are we charging too much or not enough? All of these data points from real customers correct the biases of the founders, helping them to fail fast and fail forward.


So that’s the approach I took. I outlined some workshops that I thought I could deliver and pitched them to my prospective client...and they said no. 


However, a few months later, someone else caught wind of my new venture and asked for a proposal as well. Again, I outlined a workshop I’d never done before. This time, they said yes.


Landing my first client was exhilarating and scary. I had a real business--yay! But again, the question was: what next? How could I be confident that I would deliver on what I'd promised? 


Again, the solution was testing my MVP. I delivered the half-day workshop for free to the team I led at my day job. That run-through gave me valuable feedback on what worked and what didn't, improving the deliverable and increasing my confidence. When my actual delivery went well a few months later and I signed another customer, it gave me the market validation I needed to leave my job and pursue this side business as my full-time gig. Five years later, I still pinch myself that I get paid to do what I love and make a difference along the way.

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  • What’s a new product, service, event, or tool that you’re considering launching right now?

  • What would the minimum viable product look like?

  • Who could you test it with?


1 resource: Lean startups

If you are considering launching a new business--or even if you just want to think more like an entrepreneur--Ries's book The Lean Startup is a clear and practical guide for how to do both.  


You can find the book on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

Cover of James Clear's book Atomic Habits




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