To have one successful business requires a series of failures…
The overnight success that everybody chases takes five years to happen.
This means that any big company that makes the news today has a history of failures and mistakes.
Facebook faced various legal disputes. Airbnb started off by selling cereals called “Obama O’s” and “Cap’n McCain’s.” Uber must deal with a new set of legal issues in every new country it conquers.
The wise smiles we see on successful entrepreneurs are the result of years of struggle. And we’ll see how every mistake and failure can add to the growth of your startup.
1. Change your goal and act now!
If you ask Dan Norris, the founder of WP Curve, what he would do differently if he got the chance, he would surely answer to act now. Fear of failure is a presence that holds many creative people back. However, you need to keep in mind that a lack of trying to get your dream is equivalent to failure. The only way to success is to start your business today.
What Dan did wrong was spending one year on developing an ambitious project by himself. He wanted to come up with slick versions of the services that were already on the market. That’s how he wasted four months designing his own payment gateway when he could have just used PayPal in 2 minutes.
A sudden change of mindset
Even though the market still has room for successful online payment systems, he deviated too much from his initial plan. Soon, his budget ran out, and he realized that he had two weeks to come up with a viable business. Otherwise, bankruptcy would crush his entrepreneurial dreams.
So, what Dan did, was to change the goal of his business. He refused to listen to what he wanted and addressed a market demand instead. This is how he built a business that supports websites instead of building them in just two weeks.
You can see failure as valuable data insight that shows what you shouldn’t do. All projects contain a grain of success and quite a few grains of mistakes. As soon as you see that your idea doesn’t work, you shouldn’t sink with it, but instead use the lessons you learned to redirect your efforts to new ventures.
If one approach fails, adapt to the requirements of the next one. And this should happen in a matter of days.
2. Address mistakes as soon as possible
Image Source: Paul Graham
Mistakes are bound to happen, especially when an entrepreneur has no prior experience in this challenging world. However, the more you postpone the solution, the more complicated the problem is going to get.
A multi-million dollar company, Mu Sigma, learned this lesson the hard way. During the last nine years of activity, Mu Sigma has gathered 163 million in funding, securing its global position as a major business analytics company.
However, its beginnings were full of failures. During the CEO’s initial efforts to create a highly functional business, a lot of difficult decisions could have brought it to an end. The most challenging one was selecting the right employees. The founder Dhiraj C. Rajaram remembers that he was too focused on hiring people with valuable expertise. The idea seemed brilliant at that moment. The wiser the team, the more powerful the company will become. At the very least, that was the idea.
Be careful about how you choose your employees
However, things degenerated quickly after a series of new employees were hired. Dhiraj soon realized that the new team didn’t work as efficiently as the company needed. Even though the staff were competent, he found that character was as important as an impressive resume.
The company’s professional culture needed only certain employees to understand it and work with that in mind. So, the one thing that saved the company from going down was addressing the issue immediately. Dhiraj didn’t wait until things got out of control and took the hard decision to fire his staff.
The amazing thing is that he still maintains a friendship with his former employees. However, the world of business always deals with facts and shouldn’t let emotion govern management. He made a tough choice quickly and did not let subjectivity potentially ruin his company.
Don’t let setbacks derail the evolution of your startup. As soon as you understand that one of your decisions led to a faulty situation, adopt a proactive attitude and find solutions. Egos will be crushed and sleepless nights will follow. However, the success of the company is fragile in its early stages. So, all efforts should concentrate on building a sustainable foundation for a powerful company.
3. Don’t forget you need help
Image Source: Growth River
The idea of a one-person show seems to attract more and more people. It promises you independence from the discrepant tastes and opinions of other business partners. You have the freedom to implement the things you want the way you like it. However, this mindset can prove to be treacherous. Hubris can intervene and blindfold you.
This was the case for Pippin Williamson, the creator of Pippin’s Plugins. For the first four years of the project, he kept things running by himself. Pippin was a marketer, accountant, customer care agent, and producer at the same time. However, eventually, he realized that his business was just a method to sustain himself. Even though he had various ideas of growth and the project had potential, he didn’t have time to carry out new strategies.
When hiring becomes an investment with positive ROI
At this point, after four years of working on his own, Pippin hired an accountant. The new employee paid the IRS only $20,000 instead of $120,000 that year. It was the correct decision, as the business also received a new wave of customers. But it proved that the choice lacked depth. With new clients, they had more problems to solve. Working hours extended from 8 to 5, to 8 to midnight. Business development stagnated as Pippin was busy attending the needs of his clients.
Today’s industries are going through a constant evolution. There is no settled form yet for any of them, and experts should add new trends to their body of knowledge each day. Therefore, it is hard to stay on top of things on your own, and manage all three pillars of a real business, namely market potential, reputation, and market share.
While understanding how your business works from head to toe is of utmost importance, you are in danger of performing only horizontally and not vertically if you refuse help. Without delegation, you cannot manage a business. Being too caught up in just one area will hinder you from seeing the bigger picture.
4. Don’t move a finger without target market demographics
“The one shift that helped me was when I recognized that the timeline of these failures is really quick – several days is not uncommon!” confessed Sandi MacPherson who is the successful founder of Quibb.
This kind of mindset helped the young entrepreneur overcome a series of bad decisions. She spent six months investing valuable resources into a mobile app she believed in. However, things went awry since the target audience didn’t backup her new idea, no matter how easily the product was distributed.
We are not alone in our mistakes
The same went for other successful companies. The co-founder of KISSmetrics also admitted that his company wasted a whopping sum of $1,000,000 on a web hosting platform that never saw the light of day.
Hiten Shah and his partner are perfectionists. Together, they invested time, effort, and a lot of capital to make every detail of their project work like a well-oiled machine. However, no matter how good their product ended up being, they never once thought of asking the public for their opinion.
To ensure the success of your company, you need first to identify a problem consumers have and see if your idea provides a suitable solution. Afterward, the tasks of product optimization should always take the audience itself into consideration. It should follow the consumer’s needs, to begin with.
Secondly, Sandi MacPherson chose to take this setback as a valuable lesson, not criticism. The moment you get familiar with the idea that you will make mistakes on a daily basis, you are one step closer to success.
All in all, failure can be seen in two different ways. It’s either a sign that you should stick to your day job or it’s just another step towards your success. It depends on your perspective as an entrepreneur and your willingness to see the growth of your startup.
Guest Author: Marc is a Junior HR consultant and Today Assistant contributor whose interests range from identifying productivity and daily work hacks to helping businesses craft a brilliant employer brand. Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcMendelman.