Thomas Edison had failed 1,000 times in getting light bulbs to work. If only Edison gave up early, he might never find that one light bulb which lights up. The story behind Edison’s invention of the light bulb has taught us an important message: “If only you stop at failure, failure becomes your destination.”
Either we want it or not, failure is part of life. Some of the most well-known entrepreneurs out there today had failed miserably before they finally reaped what they sow. And, they live to tell the tale which we gathered in this article.
“How you respond to challenges matter”
Do you know John Rampton? He is a serial entrepreneur, investor, and expert in online marketing. Before being known as the famous John Rampton as we know today, he admitted to Property Rights Podcast (PRP) that he was hacked and found himself between a rock and a hard place. Rampton and his team have worked for 3 months building their products. Then they launched and everything went great within 6 months of progress and attracted over 15,000 customers. But all of sudden, they got hacked. The hacker sent a list of every email address in their system. Knowing this, Rampton shook in boots and thought that everything could be destroyed.
However, Rampton decided to take an unusual tactic. He decided to tell the hacker “nice work” and that he had extensive skills. The hacker asked for a bounty but Ramptom said he did not have. Instead, he offered the hacker $1,000 reward for finding a bug in their system. The hacker kindly accepted, deleted all the records, and helped Ramptop’s company fix a gaping hole in their system.
“I was only 14 years old when this happened,” Ramptop said. “So I learned that sometimes even the youngest mind can be a very valuable asset. Had I approached him in a different way, things could have been very different.”
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“Don’t let growth exceed your ability to fund your business”
This story belongs to Michael Hyatt, NYT best-selling author. In 1992, Hyatt borrowed money to fund his growing company – a decision that turned out to be a mistake. He did not understand the difference between rapid growth (like cancer) and healthy growth (like normal cellular reproduction). Eventually, Hyatt’s business growth consumed their capital and the business failed. He learned an important lesson to “never let growth exceed his own ability to fund it. If one tempted to seek outside funding, it is a sign of a flawed business model.”
“Visibility into progress is definitely important in every business”
Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz and Co-founder of Inbound.org, shared a story of failing to manage his business by repeatedly building “big-bang” projects. The projects required many months of development time without much visibility into progress. He and his team actually worked a number of times on the project, yet it fell flat. Started in Q4 of 2011, the project was supposed to roll out in July of 2012, but it had been delayed until September of 2013. When you budget and plan for more than a year, and the project shows slow or no progress, this is really bad news in the startup world, Fishkin said.
“Customer first, product later”
Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar, advised all entrepreneurs to get customers as fast as possible and learn from them to build a product. She said that her company spent too much money on the website and software before engaging with their fist customers. This means that part of their learning was to remove guesses, and start to work on a product that has real data (customers). In the business world, everything should be built entirely on data or fact, rather than a guess.
“Failure is PART OF success and not the success itself”
This story belongs to Jerry Hum, co-founder and executive chairman at Touch of Modern. Before Touch of Modern is thriving like today, Hum and his team spent a year and 800K on a project that, at its core, could not scale. After their first failure, the investors jokingly said, “Consider it tuition”. Hearing such phrase, Hum and team meandered along for a year slowly looking for investment.
He told PRP that what he regretted the most is not the failure, but that they did not fail quickly. During the chaos that happened in their company, it turns out they did not know the difference between success and failure. They held on to really tiny successes among their small group of users as signs that they had something that worked – thinking that the way they struggled was just the way the startup lives.
After failing, Hum and team had a solution to prevent the same mistake by launching things on a small scale, doing it quickly and establishing beforehand very concretely what goals they have to hit for the initiative to be considered successful.
“Business and personal life goes side by side”
This is not to say that you have to live your personal life in the business you build. Instead, it says that you, health, and family are what really important in life – or so Brad Burton said.
Brad Burton is the founder and managing director of the international business networking group, 4Networking. Brad learned that finding balance in life can be more important to success in business than any growth strategy you will read. He said, “I forgot what was REALLY important in life. Me. Health. Family. Sometimes you become so focused on business that you stop paying attention to other things and in my case it was so detrimental I almost lost everything.” Burton added, “You are your best business tool. You have to look after it.”
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