Educating Innovators with Heather McGough, Co-Founder of the Lean Startup Company
“I wake up each morning excited to get to work, as if my journey is just beginning.”
Heather shared. It’s no wonder when you consider her career. Heather is a Co-Founder of the Lean Startup Company overseeing new products and services.
With her propensity for knowledge her work is no surprise. “I’m constantly curious, addicted to learning, and look at every problem or challenge as a way to grow and be better.” The Co-Founder explained.
Heather has offered education, tools, and partnerships to entrepreneurs and corporate innovators, helping them overcome the obstacles that come with business for six years. The Lean Startup Company Co-Founder knows startups inside and out, even having formed two of her own.
“Through years of media engagement, live events and interaction with our global community of followers and practitioners, I learned that there was a clear need and problem to solve.” Heather recalled. Calls for the solution did not come quietly. “There are products people were screaming for. We would even get nasty emails saying ‘if you guys aren’t going to do this stuff, who is? It’s your responsibility.’” It’s not often an entrepreneur has their customers knocking down their door for answers, but that’s how it began for the Lean Startup Company.
How does one respond to these customer demands? Heather answered, “We use the Lean Startup method of course. We don’t spend time building things that customers don’t need. We make assumptions, hypothesis, run experiments, and build-measure-learn, and iterate to ensure that what we’re doing is solving a customer’s problem.” This is something that all tech startups can learn from.
Of course, it’s not just about the customer. One of Heather’s biggest learning points was understanding the value of the team. “You’re only as good as your team,” the Co-Founder commented, “Hire the right people; to me that means they’re reliable, organized, positive, loyal, motivated to try new things, and not scared of the unknown.”
Working With Newborn Startups & Full-Blown Corporations
Heather has had first-hand experience seeing what tech startups and corporate companies need. She commented, “Smart companies all over the world are coming to us to get help with buy-in and modern management techniques for building products, services and processes that will ensure they remain competitive in a fast-changing market.”
As companies flocked to the Lean Startup Company, Heather was able to educate both corporations and startups in a unique way. “Our company teaches large complex organizations, government agencies and startups around the world how to tackle strategic, cultural and managerial challenges by applying scientific rigor to product and business development.”
Not all of the Lean Startup Company’s clients are on the same page. Heather related, “Companies come to us to both dip their toe in the water and get some proof that this stuff works, while others are ready for a complete transformation across dozens of countries.” The Lean Startup Company manages to balance the act of pleasing both growing startups and full-grown corporations.
While it may seem odd that a company called the Lean Startup Company is working with large corporations, it’s anything but. “For large established organizations it’s important to have an entrepreneurial culture, and empower employees to act like entrepreneurs.” How does one offer a viable solution for a giant corporation interested in acting entrepreneurial? “We’ve got the best faculty in the world who specialize in innovation as it relates to governance, performance metrics, innovation accounting, and more.” Yet again, hiring the right people for your startup proves to make or break a business.
While transforming the makeup of hundreds of companies big and small has been incredibly rewarding, Heather’s impact is reaching even further. “I’m at the point now where our work is benefiting not only the environment, but national security.” The Co-Founder shared.
Things haven’t always gone smoothly for Heather. “We fail frequently,” the Lean Startup Co-Founder said, “When you’re putting minimum viable products out to the world and operating in conditions of extreme uncertainty, you have to be able to build your standard operating procedures as you go. My mantra these days to my team is “Nobody did anything wrong. We’re learning as we go.” Heather’s point of view is refreshing. For the failure-ridden tech startups out there, the reminder of the ability to learn from every action using scientific rigor is a welcome reassurance.
Solving Problems & Selling Yourself
With her work helping startups day after day, Heather’s advice for entrepreneurs is priceless. She tells tech entrepreneurs, “Solve an actual problem. Don’t spend time and money building something for a problem you haven’t proved exists. And be sure there is a way for you to be compensated for solving that problem. In other words, practice Lean Startup methods from the outset.” Listening to Heather’s words can save tech startups a lot of future pain.
To women pushing through the tech field, Heather commented, “ Nobody is ever going to go out of their way to help you; you are responsible for fighting for your own success.” With that reality in mind, the Co-Founder advised, “Growing a business requires being sales-minded on every level. You’re constantly selling your product — but beyond that you’re selling yourself and your brand at every turn. If you want a partner, funding, or even a simple favor, most of the time it’s all about how you make your ‘ask’ and about give and take.”
“In the beginning it’s fine to spend time networking, attending events, learning and immersing yourself at every turn. But once you have your startup up and running, I’ve found there isn’t much time for those things anymore.” Heather said to women just entering the tech field. “You have to be very strategic and smart about how you use your time, learn to say No, and keep some sort of life balance. When you love your job, thrive off solving problems and learning, it’s easy to see that balance slip away.”
Heather is a treasure trove of advice for the entrepreneurial woman in tech. Through her work, she’s not only changed the way startups work, but also the ways of large corporations. She’s shown flexibility and expertise in modern management education. This Co-Founder is an inspiration for everyone from the tired tech entrepreneur to the innovative corporate employee.
What education is vital for a startup?
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