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Fail Early and Often

Why it’s important to fail first

Author: Zach Dilworth Sunday August 18, 2019
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We Are Conditioned to Avoid Failure

In school, we were taught to get good grades and avoid getting an F on our tests because the F represented FAILURE. We were taught wrong. In life, failure leads to wisdom. And as side gig entrepreneurs, failure happens all the time. It’s important to not let it get to you. Every time you fail, you’re that much closer to success. As Winston Churchill stated, “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Those of you in sales know this all too well. Thicken your skin, listen to motivational speakers, or do whatever it takes to get back up, and try again and again.

Failure is just a Step in the Entrepreneurial Journey

When running a startup, it’s important to be flexible to market demands and pivot your approach as necessary. Some failures are more costly than others, but they all work the same: you tried something, and it didn’t work. So get back up, dust yourself off and try again. But, don’t try the exact same thing expecting different results; that’s the very definition of insanity.

When to Throw in the towel…

This is a tough question. It depends on the situation. Ask yourself these questions regarding your product, service or new feature:

  • Are you losing money?
  • Is it an investment or are you simply adding resources just to keep it afloat?
  • Does it generate demand? If so, are you charging enough for it?
  • Is it a strategic move to outmaneuver the competition?

Discontinuing a product line or feature is common in business. It’s better to trim a dying rose so the rose bush will bloom tenfold in the future. You’ve seen it in the movies: there’s a group of people holding onto a rope, but the weight is too heavy and the rope is breaking, so the hero let’s go of the rope so the rest of the group can survive.

The Law of Diminishing Returns

If you’re generating revenue but your profits are suffering, you should consider the law of diminishing returns. The law of diminishing returns works like this: with all other elements remaining fixed, every additional unit of input leads to a decreasing output.

Ever hear the expression, there are too many chefs in the kitchen? Similar to the law of diminishing returns, if you double the number of chefs in your kitchen but don’t double the number of cooking stations, it’s likely going to lead to loss of productivity while chefs try to move around each other trying to handle the orders.

Don’t sink your startup over a situation like this. Instead, cut off what’s not working and use what you’ve learned to pivot, and try something new. Every time you follow this process, your mind becomes trained to constantly look for opportunities in the market and prepare contingency plans in case your main product becomes obsolete.

Research & Development

Instead of guessing what the market wants, do some research. If you’re planning to release a new and improved scuba diving accessory, perhaps join a meetup group for scuba divers and find out what their pains are with similar products currently on the market. Do a formal survey, ask them specific questions targeted at the pain your product solves. Then, ask them if they’d be interested in resolving that pain with your product. This is a great way to get some of your initial orders for the product.

Or perhaps, they’ll give you some valuable feedback about your product saying that it’s not needed. This is how you test market viability and learn from your market’s valuable feedback. Hence, this is a great way to fail early – basically failing before you’ve produced 1,000+ units of your product and spent thousands on promoting it.

Failure Leads to Success

Those who have spent a lot of time failing are those who have spent a lot of time learning. Wisdom comes from experience and failure amplifies that experience tenfold. Spend time with failed or “learned” entrepreneurs and learn to avoid the same pitfalls they’ve experienced.