Apr 2, 2013

Succeed With A Culture Of Failure

My ski coach used to say, “If you’re not falling down regularly, you’re not trying hard enough.”

You can’t achieve more if you’re always playing it safe. And that’s what my ski coach was trying to reinforce. It’s ok to make mistakes and fall down, because they’re crucial steps in the learning process.

But in business, falling down is rarely an option.

Reject the culture of prudence

I see a resistance to failing every day. Companies often hire consultants so they won’t make mistakes.

The consultants are brought in to show the management team ‘the way.’ They are the perceived experts who will guide the organization to solve a challenge—whether in finance, operations, sales or marketing.

And the consultants reinforce their clients’ attitudes. They frame their work with audits, SWOT analyses, research and planning. They try get as much information as they can up front so they can offer foolproof recommendations.

The challenge is innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Trying to get everything perfect before you act will not eliminate risks, but it might delay action.

Plan, Act, Measure

A strategy starts as a hypothesis. You put your best ideas, information and assumptions together to grow your business. But until you put your plan into action and get real world feedback, it’s just a hypothesis.

Paul Chato, CEO of Your Web Department shared with me, “We went through five iterations of our delivery model before we found one that truly resonated with our market.”

Your Web Department provides an online website management service for small businesses. Their goal is to provide the easiest to use platform for designing, launching and managing websites.

Each iteration of their delivery model was a learning experience. They developed their plans, implemented them, and gathered the results. They collected as much information as they could, and used those insights to tweak their strategy and do it again.

The process accelerated Your Web Department’s growth. Rather than trying to get it right the first time, they kept experimenting, making mistakes and learning.

On the fifth attempt they launched LiveBuild, a service where they design and build a custom website in one hour for free without the use of templates. (Yep, that’s not a typo. They’ll build a website for you for free.)

The concept has taken off, and all their core sales metrics are positive. Their lead generation is way up, their cost of sales is falling, and their clients are ecstatic and happily referring new clients.

Embrace falling down

Falling down and making mistakes is not failing, it’s growing.

You can’t get to the next level by using the habits and ideas that got you to where you are today. You’ve got to change, learn and grow. You’ve got to develop new habits, and learn new lessons.

The path to growth is fraught with mistakes. But if you embrace them and learn from them, your company can achieve so much more sooner.

How does your company handle failure?

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