By Sheryl Owen, Founder, Surrounded by Opportunities, New York City, NY
Note: Earlier this year, the DLE awarded a scholarship to Sheryl Owen to participate in a 60-day Business Agility training program offered through Soil of Commerce, a learning organization co-hosted by the Berkshire Innovation Center and Teal Education Partners–an agile consultancy based in Williamstown, MA.
Called the DLE Start Kit, the program featured an Agile-coach-supported introduction for learners and doers who want to learn how to practice Business Agility. They learned the foundational tools, patterns and mindset of Agile to enhance their leadership practices. Sheryl, who is starting a new business this year, provides a wrap-up of her experience in the article below.
The Agile Training Program offered through the DLE was a phenomenal experience because it looks at the Scrum framework to tackle action items. I think in many ways it shows you the meaning of failing fast or failing forward – projects progress through what is called a series of sprints.
These sprints are no more than a month long, most commonly two weeks. And in my case, it meant that tried to tackle my action items by the next call with my Agile coach. Before this process, I was using a running task list, which was not prioritized.
Through the Scrum framework I was shown the Kanban board to take bite-sized tasks, based on what is the most important, and complete them. Then I was able to evaluate what the results meant–should I stay the course, should I make tweaks to my assumptions or should I change entirely.
Through this process I also changed my ideas for starting my business about three times because in many cases the market was not ready for what I was trying to sell. I personally use Miro to put all my thoughts down on “paper” and keep track of my process.
I also used Strategyzer, a set of worksheets available to test business ideas and develop my value proposition. It was great because the agile coach was able to ask me questions about anything that was unclear in my Value Proposition. During my Discovery phase, I tried not to leave any conversation with a potential customer empty-handed.
Often, I was asked for an introduction to someone within their network. This interviewing process was a great way to understand my customer and see their reactions. It also forced me to take my ideas to implementation, especially the things that I was not fond of such as selling products. While it’s still not easy for me, the pressure of selling has eased with each person and company that I have connected with.
For the first time, I am actually taking the time to reflect on the journey, and a lot has been accomplished within the last couple of months to make this business one step closer to reality.
My business, Surrounded by Opportunities, is a sustainability consulting company that helps organizations understand their carbon footprint and evaluate their impact on their communities and supply chains. I launched my website, developed my minimum viable product (MVP), joined a pitch competition to get some startup cash and reduced my hours with my current company.
The next steps for me are to have a soft opening of my website, finalize my LLC and get my first client.