The Lean Startup Coach
I started this post with a clear objective: explain what is my idea of Lean Startup coaching.
Since Lean Startup is a radically different approach to business creation and development, I believe that also the related coaching must be radically different.
First of all, what is business coaching or more generally “coaching” after all? The term coaching stems from “coach” which is about transportation. A coach brings or helps you getting somewhere you want to go. In business terms, it brings you to your goal.
So, what is the goal of a startup? Here opinions might diverge.
Someone would say, it is raising investors money. Some others would say it is about execute a business plan. Lean Startup simply puts it: TRACTION (or in other words: Product-Market Fit).
Hence, a Lean Startup coach should bring you to finding your Product-Market Fit, with all means.
But what are these means? Here are 5 aspects on which the Lean Startup Coach should push the startup team to focus:
1. Challenge the Business Model before the Market will do it (publicly and with no-mercy). The coach should show no-mercy to a crappy business model trying to find all possible way to destroy it. The coach is not there to please the team, but to help the team to build a robust and profitable company through the validation of business model hypotheses.
2. Measure what matters. The coach should make a real difference here and push the team to measure only what really matters in order to achieve product-market fit. The teams have to trust the coaches and follow their advices, strictly, as they would do for physician when ordering to do medical exams (e.g. X-rays, blood check, IMR, etc.). See it as a baby who need specific care for growing strong: in order to know what is missing, you need to measure all the growth metrics and act when necessary with the right actions.
3. Help to pivot. The coach can deconstruct and challenge your unfeasible and unrealistic business model, but they should also help you in making bold decisions by changing your strategy. I would say that they should help the company to do this as fast as possible, without wasting too many resources. Usually, startups don’t recognize quick enough that things are wrong and wait too long hoping that “tomorrow will be better”. Good things happen fast. When validating one business model assumption, not only set the target, but also deadlines. Don’t wait too long, because time is the ultimate resource and you don’t want to waste it.
4. Help with networking. The coach should facilitate contacts with either customers and partners. A valuable coach will tell you who to contact for validating the business model assumptions and possibly introduce to them.
5. Provide courage and optimism. The last but not least contribution of the coach is to reassure when everything seems to go wrong. Startups should never loose faith in their vision, product, technology and human capital. These are their assets and they should only build on them, not destroy them. When everything goes well, everyone is happy and we are all friends. When issues arise, people tend to blame each other. The coach should bring peace and help the team to understand that in the startup phase, there are no failures: there is only learning. I think this is where most team (and coaches) struggle most. On the one side, the founders are driven by their egos. On the other side, the coaches don’t push the founders enough to challenge their models. The coach is like a doctor: must be factual and realistic, but must also have “tact” and favor cohesion of the team. As in health, the first thing to do in fighting a desease is believing that the desease can be defeated.
I am trying to become a good Lean Startup coach and I am willing to learn more from my assisted startups… Probably, I need a coach myself! Who wants to help me?