3 Steps to Kill Your Darlings
A very popular advice given to students of literature and writing is “Kill Your Darlings” and by now, the meaning of that lesson is well widespread and well known. It means get rid of your favourite old tropes, favourite words, plot directions, etc. This keeps your material fresh and new every time, keeps you from getting predictable and repetitive and therefore boring.
That same philosophy applies to many things in life. Oftentimes, it is crucial to “out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new” it. And that applies to business too.
It’s the Only Way to Improve
Kill your darlings, get rid of that old business model in favour of a newer, better one. Many of us can get attached, especially to our first brain child. But we must stop to consider if it is perhaps time to retire that old business model simply because it doesn’t work as well.
Maybe you started with an A Team, and you love it. But then the company grew to the point where the original team may be ill fitted or no longer interested in pursuing it further. To save the venture, you have to change the team. You will grow and faster and more efficiently too.
The only way to improve is to change and sometimes that means sacrificing certain things.
Keeps You Competitive
You know the story, the old-fashioned giant goes under when those quick, agile young ‘uns with their new spangled fancy ideas come and sweep the rug out from underneath them. At the risk of using a common and almost clichéd example, don’t be Kodak. Old stuff can be cool, if you’re going into the vintage niche. Otherwise, dumping your old product for something completely new is probably a better idea. If it’s a dying industry, jump off like rats from a sinking ship, which is exactly what it is. Even if your family has been in that industry for generations, sometimes if you wanna save the company, you gotta get off that vessel.
So How Do You Do It?
“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries
has recommended using the scientific method which dare I say is, in many ways the most logical way of approaching a problem. We remember the scientific method from your days at school. Observe, Question, Hypothesis, Set Parameters, Gather Tools and Materials, Experiment and Gather Data, Conclusion.
Eric Ries has condensed this into three simple steps. Build, Measure, Learn
This encompasses the first three steps. Observe the market: see what exists and what does not. Notice, really notice the systems that things run on and how does it work. Then, you question the status quo. Find the niche where improvements can be made or where a need exists. And thirdly, come up with a solution that you believe could be the answer to the question. Now you have your Hypothesis.
And it is time to get your beakers out and test it!
The crucial step to a fledgling start-up. Testing the waters. Now that you have a hypothesis, you can set out to see if it really works like you think it will. There are many methods of doing this.
Start by gathering opinions. Find out what people think. Is the problem really a problem? Would most people like a solution and what do they think of your solution? Do research on existing ideas. Has someone already come up with it and if so, can you scoop them??
Don’t be afraid to really get into it. Ask detailed questions. Why do they think so? So they don’t like it that much. What would improve on that? And the easiest way is to start with friends and family before extending outwards to the general public (the poor passers-by you will harass on the streets in the next stage).
Gather quantitative data by using tools like Unbounce and Hotjar to gauge potential customer response to your landing page. See how much interest you can get online and how many leads you can generate.
Pool them all together and you will have your results.
What did they say? Do people love your product? Are the numbers jumping off your page? Or maybe the response was more… lukewarm. Well now you learned something new! Clearly, something isn’t working. Something could be better. Now what is it?? This is the stage where you can’t be afraid to kill your darlings. Figure out what is dragging your results down and then get rid of it. Maybe the business model is too complicated. Or the solution isn’t very feasible economically. With this data, you can start to figure out how to fix those issues and hopefully come up on top the next time you run the tests.
Listen to your customers. What do they want? I’m sure we all know to a certain extent that that is what business is. Delivering something of value to the people who would buy them so that they tell you to shut up and take their money. And we all know that running a business is also a constant process of the above three steps.
Always build, measure, learn, repeat and never be afraid to make the changes you need to stay competitive.