Learning From Their Mistakes

WAKA Kickball co-founder Johnny LeHane talks about building longer term relationships with his customers—and learning to ask for help.

Video Transcript
00:07 Johnny LeHane: I'm Johnny LeHane from the World Adult Kickball Association, also known as WAKA at kickball.com, and we provide sport and social clubs for 21 and up nationwide. We're currently in 35 states and 75 markets with over 400 leagues running a year.
What challenges have you overcome?

00:27 LeHane: One of our first series of mistakes that we made many times it seems -- we finally figured it out -- was giving away practically our whole business model to people. We were so hungry to spread the joy of kickball, people would contact us, and we'd be like, all right "Here's kickball in a box", and we actually made a videotape, and made a list of everything they need to do, and get on the phone with them, and teach them. But they were at a distance, so we'd put it all together for them and try to have them work with us to go through our registration system, but we handed away too much, and we didn't get back enough. We didn't stay connected with them. We didn't get there on the ground and get the face-to-face and get the relationship right first, so we'd spawn competition, regional competition. And we did that a few times that way.

01:07 LeHane: And then we also let some leagues at some times get a little farther away from us than we should have and you get an upset customer. And they're like, "You know what? I'm just going to do this myself." Those are few and far between, but some of them have done it with some success. The lesson and actually the reward is that they always drive us to be better. Any time competition springs up in any market, especially in the few instances it's grown out of us, it just makes us double-down and make sure that we're providing the best product on the ground. So that was one of our mistakes.

01:35 LeHane: And another big challenge, I don't know if it was a mistake so much, but actually I used to run our technology department and moving from a homegrown website solution to a platform website solution was just one of the biggest challenges that I've ever led in my life. And what I did do is I asked for help. Even, actually on launch day, I had been up for what felt like two weeks straight. And we were right at launch, and I was working through launch with our consultants and with our staff, and I had to hand the keys over to Jimmy to make the launch happen because I just wasn't... I had passed my peak. I had stayed up... The mistake, I had stayed up too long too much instead of relying on the team to get done what I knew they could get done. But being willing to ask for help was, I always think back to that and say, "Do I need to ask for help? And should I ask for it earlier?" which is what I should have done in that case.
What's your advice for entrepreneurs?

02:32 LeHane: Don't be afraid to fail. I mean, we hear that all the time in the entrepreneur circles, but I don't think enough people hear that going in. See, it doesn't mean that you're going to fail and your company is going to close six weeks after you started, whenever that first failure is, but you're going to make failures along the way and those are going to teach you the right path. Your product may end up being totally something different than you expected it to be, but if you go in there fearless and willing to fail, you're going to find lessons in every one of those failures, and that's going to take you to the next step in your plan.