About this episode
In this episode Ramesh Dontha, managing partner of Digital Transformation Pro and the voice behind the Agile Entrepreneur Podcast shares how to scale your startup in as little as 60 minutes a day for 30 days or less. Insights he shares include:
- Why an agile mindset is essential for entrepreneurs and startups
- How you can develop an agile mindset
- How to overcome the challenges in developing an agile mindset
- What the process of startup growth looks like for an agile entrepreneur
- How agile mindsets help with hastening your learning
- How to track progress in developing an agile mindset in light of your business objectives
- How Ramesh has applied an agile mindset to his podcast and book launch.
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Why is it important to understand the agile mindset?
The agile mindset is a mindset of change, adaptability, and especially learning.
It is something that Sonya Keenan touched on when she discussed the best ways to use growth marketing with a simple framework, as did Andrea Fryrear who talked about how to use agile marketing principles to boost business growth.
Agile, which came from the software development world, has benefited everyone. It introduced the concept of an agile mindset—a learning mindset—compared to a fixed mindset which is closed to change and unable to evolve.
An agile mindset can be applied to just about every aspect of your life. It can help you to overcome obstacles and not freeze when they occur.
If you can take on an agile mindset, at work and in your everyday life, you will achieve success even in the face of change—or maybe because of change.
Why do entrepreneurs need an agile mindset?
According to the statistics, in the US alone, 62% of adults believe entrepreneurship is a good career. However, only 15% actually launch a business.
So why is there a huge gap?
Ramesh says that aspiring entrepreneurs must grapple with three issues: fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Here’s why. Entrepreneurs need to break away from a traditional mindset and learn to be more flexible to allow for continual change in their environments.
When you are building a business, it is impossible to prepare for every event. Sure, it is prudent to have a risk mitigation plan, make alternate plans in case a project falters and set aside cash reserves to tide you over unexpected circumstances. But most of all, an entrepreneur needs to own responsibility for business outcomes and be comfortable taking control in a crisis.
In other words, entrepreneurs need to be adaptable—able to rise above in any circumstance, whether or not they had a plan.
An agile mindset can help to reduce the fear, uncertainty, and doubt along the entrepreneurial journey.
The best way forward with an agile mindset is to:
- Launch the business in the shortest time possible without seeking to achieve perfection.
- Focus all your efforts on getting that first paying customer.
Why is an agile mindset important to scale your startup growth?
How can an agile mindset help any entrepreneur, business, or startup?
An agile mindset helps you:
- Adapt to change: An agile mindset allows change to occur; it keeps you looking for opportunities that will benefit the business.
- Overcome obstacles: An agile mindset views obstacles as challenges to overcome with effective solutions.
- Continue to learn and improve: An agile mindset understands that projects are not failures or successes; they are opportunities to learn and to develop skills and processes.
- Build an agile culture: An agile mindset allows you to identify characteristics in team members that support an agile work culture and enhance the potential success of the business. It can also help you achieve a first-mover advantage in bringing products or services to the market.
- Stay ahead of the competition: An agile mindset urges you to invest in more of what works well and to keep experimenting to stay ahead of the competition—rather than just reacting to your competitor’s moves.
What are the agile values and principles?
The agile mindset uses certain values and principles to achieve business success. They are:
- Iteration: The belief that there is always room for improvement and that anyone can propose ideas to allow for iterations that will provide the feedback needed.
- Collaboration: To iterate and receive feedback, you need collaboration – internally within your team and or externally with your customers. Operating in silos can increase friction and take away from a culture of trust and transparency.
- Change: The agile methodology is based on the ability to adapt to a change in circumstances. Any process or cultural aspect that prevents you or your team from being flexible and embracing change should be removed.
How do entrepreneurs develop an agile mindset?
In his book, Ramesh walks an entrepreneur or startup through the process of launching, validating, and gaining customers in the first 30 days. While not every business needs to spend 30 days to validate and gain customers, he provides a comprehensive pathway to get started and apply agile methodologies to develop an agile mindset.
According to Ramesh, an agile entrepreneur has an agile mindset that develops products and services in a way that values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools,
- Working products over perfection and comprehensive documentation,
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and
- Responding to change over following a plan
Someone with an agile mindset never considers a project finished. Instead, clear and regular communication with both the team and the customer, helps you stay focused on your customer’s needs—to solve problems they encounter and find better ways to help them.
What are the challenges entrepreneurs face in applying the agile mindset?
To be agile, you must quickly create finished products that involve feedback from your customers and remain flexible as you progress. This is opposed to crafting an inflexible plan for what you want to create without validating it with your potential customers, strictly following a set of guidelines or procedures, and refusing to stray from it as you progress.
Ramesh believes that a person’s desire to strive for perfection is a huge challenge for entrepreneurs.
People know that perfection is the enemy of success but, people think that maybe if I don’t go for perfection, people will doubt me, that I’m not doing something right. … that holds people from using the agile methodology because if you keep waiting for the perfect everything, then you keep postponing it. That’s number one.
Number two, we forget the fact that we learn from our failures. We learn from our mistakes. I mean, if we go back and look at how we learned to walk right, we fell so many times. How did we learn to cycle? We fell so many times from the bike! But every time we fail, we learn something that we feed back into our learning process of walking or cycling.
In business, it’s the same. Failing fast is something, you know, that tremendously helps people use agile methodologies to learn from the mistakes. If I were to wait to launch my business for three months or six months, thinking that it would be perfect by that time, I never had an opportunity to fail because I’ve never done anything.
I keep learning, I keep following this course. But I’m really not doing anything. I’m really not failing. But if I do something fast, I will fail. And then I will learn from the failure, and then I will apply the learning and then make it better. I think those are the two things that businesses forget: They’re afraid of the failure, number one, and they’re afraid and want to make things perfect.
What does the process of startup growth look like for an agile entrepreneur?
Ramesh says that the primary purpose of any business is to create a customer.
You create a customer by doing only two things.
- Innovation: Build an innovative product or innovative service
- Marketing: You market that product or service.
Innovation and marketing are the only two things that you can do to create a customer. Everything else is noise.
Unfortunately, when we are running the business, we forget the simplicity of this business and this concept. Instead, we get hung up on creating the perfect website or chasing after the latest shiny object.
To ground himself and keep his focus, Ramesh goes back to answering these questions:
- who is my customer?
- What are the pain points?
- Am I able to reduce my customer’s pain point or address the pain point through my products or services?
With most businesses, gaining a customer comes down to:
- 30 to 40% innovation and
- 60 to 70% marketing.
Ramesh says that in almost every instance he has observed, the successful businesses invest a higher proportion of their resources to marketing and promotion than innovation.
If you understand the split, focus on these three things:
- Create a customer
- What is the innovation that you’re delivering?
- How can you market that innovation?
How can entrepreneurs with an agile mindset apply tactics to hasten their learning?
Ramesh says that there is no shortage of tactics that entrepreneurs can apply, and he covers 15 days of sales strategies in his book.
What is important is to understand the nuances of each tactic to apply it effectively and learn what will help businesses to scale.
Most people write off tactics like email marketing and cold email, but they’re still pretty effective.
Ramesh shares a few examples of using tactics in the podcast. He says, when starting out, you could:
- Trade services to get a customer referral from somebody who runs a complementary business.
- Use the “other people’s audiences” (OPA) strategy. In his book, Ramesh tells the story of an entrepreneur who was a content writer. The writer went to his accountant and said, “If you bring your customers in for a lunch-and-learn, I will tell them how to write good content for one hour in a free workshop. And then I’ll pay for their lunch.” The accountant agreed. The writer prepared the material and worked with the accountant’s audience to share what he knew. He gained new customers that way.
How do you measure the validity of a tactic?
To determine the validity of a tactic, you need measures that are:
- Easy to measure
- Actionable, because they provide enough feedback for you to act on
- Easy for you and stakeholders to understand
Andrea Fryrear recommends focusing on:
1. Efficiency: the ratio of the time that tasks wait in queues to the time they are being worked on.
Looking at the average efficiency value of a specific task will give you process efficiency.
2. Cycle time: a customer-centered view on when the tactic will be done
An increase in cycle time indicates bottlenecks in your processes
3. Throughput: the number of tasks completed in a fixed time frame.
How is Ramesh Dontha applying an agile mindset to his book launch?
Ramesh has a marketing background. So, he firmly believes that an “if you build it, they will come” strategy will not work.
You need to get your message out and use a multi-channel marketing approach to do it.
For the book launch, he is using what he calls a “Rolling Thunder” approach.
He says “Rolling Thunder” is like a movie release.
- First, they release a poster of the movie.
- Then they release a trailer of the movie.
- They might then release an audio track or hold local events.
He is launching his book in a similar manner.
The release of this podcast with Ramesh and this post also are parts of his Rolling Thunder launch.
- Ramesh’s book – The 60 Minute Startup: A Proven System to Start Your Business in 1 Hour a Day and Get Your First Paying Customers in 30 Days (or Less)
- Visit Ramesh’s site
- Listen to the Agile Entrepreneur Podcast
- Connect with Ramesh on LinkedIn