Right off the bat - strategy is important! It doesn’t matter if you are a carpenter working 50 hours a week on the job or running an online eBay business from your kitchen table. It’s strategy that will keep you making great and consistent choices that will move your business forward. It makes my heart sad when I hear business owners say they are too busy to come up with strategy or that having a strategy doesn’t fit for their kind of business.
As a business owner you make choices everyday and having a way to measure the success and appropriateness of those choices only helps to add value and to keep your pipeline full. It’s not always nice and neat though and sometimes you’ll fail, epically. Here’s what to think about when you find yourself in an epic business fail and how to pull yourself through it.
It all starts with developing strategy.
Developing strategy and then implementation can get messy. Trying to communicate goals to each level of the organization so that every player understands how their input directly affects how your business will reach its goals can get messy. Gathering and analyzing data can get messy. In all that messiness comes failure every once and awhile - contrary to the superhero in all of us, every set of strategic choices that come out of our brains are not home runs.
Messy and failure are not bad things though. In fact you can learn a whole lot about your business and your strategy through failure. Here are a few ways you can embrace your messy processes and occasional failures to keep your business running lean and adapting to your markets as tastes and expectations change around you.
Remember that this stuff applies even if you are a solopreneur or a hobby business.
1. Reframe your capabilities and learning curves.
Entering new markets and offering new services can give you access to a segment that might be untapped by your competition. Figuring out the scale or scope that you can serve that segment takes a failure or two before you get it right. Think about how quickly you can acclimate and focus in on how you are adding value to that market segment. It’s ok to venture out into new markets and figure out that it’s not a good fit. Realize where you can extend your capabilities and start from there.
2. Talk to your customers or non-customers.
If you tried something new and it didn’t work out go ask why! Yes, you still have to do this even if no one bought. You can have the best plans and projections in the world but you won’t know how to grow until you get feedback from your market. Maybe you misjudged your audience or made an assumption that wasn’t true. That’s ok, this gives you the opportunity to reach out and iterate. If you had customers that bought and weren’t happy this is a chance to serve them so hard that they become raving advocates. They get to raving because you are showing that audience that you can dig deep and deliver on what really pains them.
3. Failure makes you think about the process.
Maybe it’s not your strategy but how you implemented it. Failure is great because you have concrete data to work with. You made a choice and it either worked or it didn’t - now it’s time to find out why. All too often I see business throw away perfectly good strategies because they tried it for a little while and nothing happened. Really they should have been looking at the specific actions they were taking to reach those goals. If you burnt the last batch of chocolate chip cookies you baked would you swear off those delicious treats entirely after that one experience or would you look back and think about your steps. Maybe you realize that you had the oven set too high and fix that part of the process. You wouldn’t stop eating those cookies and you shouldn’t just stop thinking about improving your strategy.
I could keep going but I want to keep this post simple. Think about failure in three ways: where you failed, who you failed and why you failed. From there you can ask all kinds of great questions that don’t involve relegating strategy talk to the “would be nice” conversation topics. Strategy is important especially because entrepreneurs are some of the most prolific rationalizers that exist on the planet. It’s strategy that keeps your choices consistent, your resources allocated efficiently and your brand growing.
Now, I’m off to find some chocolate chip cookies. I mean work on my strategy. I mean, I need a glass of milk.