There is a lot of focus in the lean startup world on the MVP – the minimum viable product. Rightly so in my view as the MVP starts to prove all the spreadsheets, planning and thinking has produced something customers want to pay for and will use.
Unfortunately often what happens is so much emphasis is placed on this one thing that the way the business works is ignored. The result is chaos, with people rushing around trying to fulfil orders, contracts in place that aren’t competitive (or flexible) and a host of other problems.
One startup I worked with ran into problems when the local council visited and threatened to close them down because of their breaches of Health & Safety law. Another had been so focused on getting their first iteration done that they had entered into an 18 month contract with a contact centre that was completely inappropriate for their needs.
Whenever I work with new and growing companies I remind them of the importance of having a minimum viable business. Just like the MVP this should be the least wasteful structure required to run the business from day to day and satisfy all the obligations that a commercial enterprise has. Accounting systems, HR, supplier selection, regulatory approval: these and others need to be thought about and appropriate controls put in place before momentum builds.
After all, “we are a lean startup” is not an acceptable reason to breach a contract or avoid paying your taxes!
Image via Max and Miles Hanley and used under creative commons licence.