Small Business and Startups: The True “Lean” Movement

Last week, Ross was contacted by an old friend, Ron May, who publishes an industry newsletter in Chicago and writes extensively about technology, startups, and small business in our region.

Ron gets in touch periodically for updates on crowdspring so this was no great surprise.

Ron’s email asked, “What the heck is going on with crowdspring? Give me numbers.”

Well, Ron knows that we don’t share a lot of our data with the media; Ross’s response?

Hey Ron, Taking a cue from the lean startup movement, Mike and I have lost a combined 30 pounds this summer.


The Lean Startup movement has had a powerful impact on the world of small business and many companies (crowdspring included) have taken these principals to heart in their day-to-day operations, strategy, and management approach.

But, Ross’s email to Ron started me thinking hard about something we don’t discuss much when we write about business: personal health and how this tends to be secondary to our other priorities in business.

Why is an increased emphasis on health important to startup founders and entrepreneurs?

Well, it’s simple really. We work incredibly hard every day,  and we focus intently on our businesses, our customers, and our employees but pay little attention to ourselves. We stay up late and get up early. We spend hours and hours staring at screens and sitting at desks. We eat poorly, don’t exercise enough, and endure constant stress. If this isn’t a recipe for poor health, I don’t know what is.

So, Ross and I decided a few months ago that we would do something about it: we went on diets. We determined to take a very basic approach – counting calories – and each found some simple tools to help: the combination of a calorie-counting smartphone app and the purchase of a new bathroom scale was all it took to launch our efforts.

Nobody can debate the numerous benefits of weight loss: increased energy, longer life-span, higher IQ (seriously, studies have shown nutrition and diet play an important role), and greater personal productivity are among the rewards. Not to mention, that we both are looking pretty sleek! Along the way, we have learned some important lessons on the road to greater health (read “less fat”), dieting, and the entrepreneur’s lifestyle; here are a few points for you to consider.

First, admit that you need to do this. Over the 6 years that we have worked to take crowdspring from an idea to a sustainable business, we have each gained weight, become progressively more sedentary, slept less, and experienced more stress and anxiety in our lives. It is important that you take a good look at your daily existence, your lifestyle, and your current state of health. Have you gained weight? Do you gasp for breath when climbing the office stairs? Does your heart rate go wild when you have to lift your laptop off the desk? If you answered yes to any of these questions it is probably time to consider taking action.

Second, set a goal. Just like with business strategy, it is impossible to measure progress or assess success without a purpose or plan. The simplest approach is to determine how many pounds you want to lose and how long you want it to take. A simple calorie calculator, like this one will help you to determine your optimal caloric intake.

Third, make diet and exercise a part of your daily existence. Look for ways to cut back on your calories in your everyday life. While it is difficult to reduce the hours you need to work or remove the strains of business from your existence, we know you can reduce your calories. And it’s really not that hard to do, though it does take some discipline: instead of eating  one and a half bagels for breakfast, cut back to one; instead of grabbing a handful of M&Ms after lunch, have an apple; and instead of garlic bread with your pasta in the evening, have a salad.

And exercise! Try walking or riding your bike to the office; use a standup desk or treadmill desk when working at your computer; conduct a meeting on a walk instead of sitting around a table. Or buy a used stationary bike and put it in the conference room for anyone to use. Livestrong publishes a great formula on their site to calculate how many calories you burn when you exercise: Calories Burned = [(Heart Rate x 0.4472) — (Weight x 0.05741) + (Age x 0.074) — 20.4022] x Time / 4.184.

Finally, enlist help Diet experts will tell you that weight loss comes quicker when you have other people encouraging you and watching your progress with you – matter of fact, having a diet “partner” is a great strategy. Being transparent about your goals and progress will apply some gentle peer-pressure which can help to keep you honest and focused on your goals.

Ross and I are both working to get down to our college weight, and so far, so good. As reported to Ron May, we have lost a combined 30 pounds in less than 3 months. Not bad and well on our way to reaching our personal goals. Good luck to you and here’s to the “real” lean movement! Salud!

Photo: MissTessmacher