Whether you are currently running a business or thinking about making the leap towards entrepreneurship, one thing is certain: you want to become profitable without investing too much time and money. Small business owners and startup founders often try to go it alone and figure out the key to success for their business themselves, but there is no need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to starting a business. Thousands of resources out there provide guidance to people exploring the idea of launching a new product or service. One that has recently captured my attention is the Lean Startup Machine. In addition to helping innovators build disruptive products that consumers truly want, the Lean Startup Machine promotes a tested methodology that allows anyone with a great idea to fast track your business, even if you have a shoestring budget. I recently had the opportunity to circle up with Rafael Balbi and Dominique Aubry from Lean Startup Machine to get their perspectives on the best way to fast track a new idea or business. Here are the key points from our conversation. Don’t get bogged down with business planning. As director of operations, Balbi is responsible for the workshops that Lean Startup Machine conducts global. To date, they have operated in 53 cities around the world and he has found a consistent theme among entrepreneurs in each location – misplaced focus. “Three to five years ago, startups and business owners spent a lot of their time focusing on business plans and funding,” noted Balbi. “While those are great things to have in order, you will be wasting your time if you have not ensured that your ideas match consumer desires.” Let the market be your guide. The Lean Startup methodology encourages workshop participants to save time and money from the beginning by getting confirmation that your idea is worth pursuing. Depending on your business or startup idea, confirmation can range from securing online signups to getting your first group of paying customers. “Lean Startup workshops serve as great testing grounds for new ideas and businesses,” noted Aubry. “Regardless of your level of experience, workshop attendees can get quick feedback on their idea, team up with others interested in supporting their creation, and effectively pivot until they can directly connect with consumer needs.” Truly know your customer. Entrepreneurs and business owners often people go with what they think the crowd wants, and this is where room is left for money to disappear into a sinkhole. Making assumptions on behalf of your desired customers can be very costly and full-scale research efforts may also put a dent in your budget. Aubry and Balbi consistently circled back to the importance of understanding customer needs, wants, thoughts, and overall experience. They have managed to include in their workshop several sections on getting this information without going for full-scale research. In one section, participants learn how to talk to consumers and ask the right qualitative questions to get the answers needed to move forward confidently. In another, participants complete the entire user cycle start to finish, allowing them to see every step including how the product ultimately gets to the consumer. This consumer knowledge is what separates businesses on the fast track from all the rest. Failing to invest enough in understanding your consumer can be your downfall. Instead of leaving things to chance, go for the lean launch and put your business on the right path from the start.