Codex for Entreprenuership

Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.
-King Solomon

entrepreneurship codex from Proverbs 24:27

Before anyone talked about nailing it then scaling it. Before Mr. Collins’ bullets and cannon balls. Before Mr. Blank had an epiphany and started developing customers and before Mr. Reis coined the phrase lean startup that now dominates high growth venture philosophy; King Solomon laid down the codex to entrepreneurship in Proverbs 24:27:

Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.

All these books are fantastic. And as I read through them I could not help but thinking how lucky I was for the opportunity. They had so much truth in them. This is why I was not surprised to see this verse in proverbs backing up the core principle of these great thoughts on entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is setting out against the uncertain. Gaining understanding is the first step. Is this problem worth solving? Do people really have it? Do they care enough about it to switch and pay to solve it? Does this solution we have solve it in a meaningful way? Can we produce this solution? Can we produce it again? And again? Now that we are past the basic stuff, what is the riskiest assumption we are making? Lets try to turn that uncertainty into certainty too. Oh and do not forget we need to do this in a way that turns uncertainty into certainty with the least amount of resources possible. And this brings us to our first principle from Proverbs 24:27:

Prepare thy work without,

Why? Why not just throw a lot of with at it, a lot of resources? Let us think about it this way. If entrepreneurship is setting out against the uncertain let us equate this to driving a car in the fog. The obvious thing to do here is to not go faster than you can stop before what you see comes to pass. It makes sense, right? Jumping in the Mustang and throwing some rocket fuel in the tank to see if she can take it and what she can do will not help things. Entrepreneurship is the same way; a lot of money; a lot of resources expended too early can lead to some costly mistakes. Costly meaning of course too costly, that is; otherwise avoidable. These core assumptions previously mentioned (all the questions above that need to be answered before we speed up), most of them can be answered without actually starting a business. Prepare thine work without.

But how do we turn all this uncertainty into certainty without starting a business? How will we know if the widget will fix the problem and if we can build it at a price that allows us to build more and so on and so on, without actually building the widget and trying selling it? This leads us to our second principle:

and make it fit for thyself in the field;

Mr. Blank is famous for the saying “get out of the building.” And this is a fantastic example of how an entrepreneur needs to shift from planning (identify those core questions) to interacting with customers. The idea is simple. Figure out the next riskiest question, that is; we think this is true but if this came back false this plan will not work, then go and interact with customers in a way that allows you to learn from them if it is in fact true or false. Search lean startup, minimum viable product, or best yet at this stage minimum viable experiment to learn more about exactly how to do this. The idea here again is simple:

  1. create a plan
  2. identify its riskiest assumption
  3. go test that assumption, with the least amount of resources possible
    1. if true, back to step two with next riskiest assumption
    2. if false, back to step one and create a new plan

Build, measure, learn, rinse, repeat until you have everything tested, as Mr. Ries would say, until you have a product-market fit, as Mr. Blank would say, until it fits in the field, as King Solomon would say. Then what? On to the next principle:

and afterwards build thine house.

Only after you have followed this codex for entrepreneurship should you spend the resources to build the business, the product, the service. This is where so many entrepreneurs think it all starts and that is scary. We can not forget all the hard work with next to nothing; no investors, no partnerships, no customers, why perhaps no one else at all for the first stent. Entrepreneurs often have to prove out a lot of these assumptions before they can even attract their first team member. Until then you are just another person with an idea, which is great mind you. And we can not forget all the prepare our work without and the making it fit for ourselves in the field and just run out and ask for money, I do not think this is good for anyone.

I am of the belief that entrepreneurship has wonderful potential when it is done the right way. I am also of the believe that God is the creator and created us in His image that we might go on creating. We are always creating. Entrepreneurs are always creating. They receive an idea and start out creating. God willing; creating wonderful products that make our lives better, creating wonderful services that make our lives better, creating wonderful jobs that make our lives better and on and on. Praise God for giving us the codex to reduce our risk in creating new things for our fellow!

 

-A takeaway from a study in Proverbs

-A takeaway from The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

-A takeaway from Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank

-A takeaway from Running Lean by Ash Maurya

-A takeaway from Great By Choice by Jim Collins

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Fear

“A good plan violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
-George S. Patton

Dramatic scene on the sky. Vintage fighter plane inbound from su

 

I love staying in touch with students who go through the entrepreneurship program.  When it comes to work, I do not think there is anything more fulfilling than being around entrepreneurs and their growing companies – especially young ones.  I find the way they view the future inspiring.

The other day I met with one of the most promising recent ISU entrepreneurship program grads.  The topic of the meeting was “what is next?”

We talked about planning.  And how bad it can be for a startup.  He identified an area where he had succumb to planning paralyzation.  He had a plan in the works re: going national which combined implementing mass production and replacing an existing product line.  The problem was it had been in the works for almost a year now.  Mass production and new product lines are a big deal, but he realized he needed to stop planning and start doing – even if it meant his plans might not go perfectly.  Fear can keep us in planning mode.  What if this?  What if that?

Planning and acting.  When balancing the two, a good way is to do just enough planning to act well.  Just enough to decide what you need to learn, what action it will take to learn it – and no more.

By the end of our talk he had come up with an action plan.  Within twenty-four hours he had sent me a note describing the results of some of the actions he was taking.  They were good results. Results he would have never realized if he was still planning.

 

A takeaway from Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey.

 

Rhetoricals: Is there anything that you have been planning for awhile now? Is it time to take some action? What assumptions are you making in your plans? Which assumption is the most critical to your plan succeeding? What is the smallest action you can take to learn whether or not that assumption is correct?

Actives: What do you think a good balance between taking action and planning is? Any helpful books, takeaways, stories, lessons learned on the subject?