There are and always will be buzzwords from the damn right poor; blue sky thinking, the average; Holistic approach, to the good; Lean Startup. Though to be clear Lean startup is much more than a buzzword, it’s a methodology, a way of working if you will that was proposed by Eric Ries back in 2008, to summarise Lean Startup is (this is no history lesson after all):
a business strategy which directs startup companies to allocate their resources as efficiently as possible.
So I hear you ask, what’s that got to do with this post? Well, let me give you a potted history on Freshspace. We started out as a partnership in January 2015; Eilidh and I are from diverse work backgrounds but we had much in common and much to offer. Like any business starting out we were taking a risk, we both had respect at our respective employees from colleagues and clients alike but to take the plunge and do it for ourselves is a different ballgame. We were starting from scratch. We had bright ideas. We had vision. We were keen. We were nervous. All the same we did it.
I have been a fan of 37signals for a number of years, they’ve written some excellent articles and books. One of their best stories is how they launched Basecamp back in 1999 without the ability for people to sign up and pay to use it, instead they gave people 30 day free trials, effectively giving themselves 30 days to hook up a payment gateway and start earning money. They’ve been going for 17 years so it’s safe to assume they got it right.
As for myself I’ve been in a position whereby previous employers and clients have had a great idea or new website design but rather than getting it out there they wanted to refine so that it was perfect. But who is this perfection for? Usually the business owner.
When we launched the initial Freshspace website it was a simple one page site, we did this for two reasons; firstly because it gave us a presence, we were after all the new kids on the block, when speaking with potential clients we wanted to be sure that if they searched for us there would be something concrete there. Secondly, it gave us the breathing space to work on a bigger site going in the background. Of course when we replaced the one page site with the bigger site, we also had a roadmap of improvements we wanted to make but to us it’s important that we do this incrementally.
I remember reading about a design company called Attik at University in the 1990’s, the two partners started their business in one of their grandmas attics – hence the genius name. They went on to have 160 staff in offices spread across three continents, now I’d be lying if I said that’s what my long-term goal was, plus I think Eilidh might have something to say about that… But the point is, when starting out in a business like ours we don’t need swanky offices, they add a level of overheads we just don’t need. When we reviewed our first full years accounts with our accountant (& client), we could easily identify our overheads knowing that they wouldn’t overwhelm or sink us. We roughly new what the cost of sales would be, and to some extent our expenses (though these were hampered back in December due to that pesky flood). Of course as it was our first year of business we wanted to keep a tight belt, and a tight belt we kept. No overindulging. No fancy gadgets we didn’t need. We did what was right for us and the business.
So what’s next? As Eilidh wrote about in ‘A room of one’s own’, we’ve got a vision of where we want to be in the coming years, we’ll achieve this by growing the business slowly and in a way that works for us. In much the same way we got started back in 2015 we’ll continue to do it lean.