Growing your own business is great.  Watching your ideas come to life, taking care of new customers and watching them become repeat customers, and successfully building your team is a feeling that can't be matched.

Until you try a new idea in your business and fail.

Completely.

In really good light, the market is truly cold and emotionless.  It doesn't care about your feelings.  It doesn't care about the work you've put in.  It doesn't care about the sacrifices you've made.

No. When presented with your ideas and actions, the market either says:

Yes.

Or it says No.

An unequivocal "yes" is a cause for celebration and a "no" leaves you lost and confused. 

Even worse?  As a small business owner, that "No" is pointed squarely at you.  You wrote the copy, or the proposal, or you did the work, or made the product.  You own the failure.

Don't despair!

You see, that failure can be something glorious.

Why?

You know what doesn't work.  More importantly, you have the chance to learn why.

Now, before you think that "Gerber has finally lost it" understand that with that failing, you have the chance to explore why it failed.  As a small business owner, you may not have the luxury to throw good money after bad, but if you can ascertain the "why" of the failure, you can draw some significance from it and then, turn it into something that clients will buy.

Now, you can overthink things at this stage but usually, that failure is the result of one of three things:

  1. People just aren't interested in the idea.
  2. It's the wrong time for the idea.
  3. People don't understand the idea.

In the first two instances, there's not a lot you can do.

If people aren't interested in the idea, you'll waste a lot of time trying to tweak something that is fundamentally broken.  You need to accept that a bad idea got through your radar and see it as a learning exercise to be more disciplined before you spend time executing an idea that simply isn't working.

If it's not the right time for an idea, again, you can't change the market or try to convince it the time is right... so don't bother.  Put your idea to the side and make a note to revisit it if you see the market sentiment changing.  Think of trying to introduce email in 1979 - the market is nowhere near ready for it; no infrastructure, no computing strength, and nobody with a computer on their desk.

In the third instance, where people don't understand the idea, though, that can be a "failure" you can actively change.  It could simply be a case of better marketing, more creative packaging, or understanding why your customers didn't go for it.  Here is the chance to split test options for your customers - payment plans, costs, even how that product is provided.  Plenty of folks second-guessed Microsoft for loading Windows "free" in computers, but that worked out pretty well in the end, wouldn't you say?

There is one key to all this, though - don't blindly believe that a minor tweak is the only thing between you and everlasting success.  At some point, you have to declare an idea dead and, if not a failure, then at least not a success.

My bigger point in all this is simple - no product or project need ever be wasted.  You goal as an entrepreneur is to understand not only what your business does but the clients that it serves.  If you really have your pulse on their needs and wants, then your "absolute" failures are always going to have limits.

Published on: Nov 20, 2017