It’s not pleasant talking about failure. But if you want to start something you love, something that matters or to build a side income you have to be dead honest with yourself.
An article recently gave a brutally honest account of 33 start-ups that died and what the founders gave as explanations for the failure. This was straight-talking honesty that didn’t pull any punches. The reasons for failure are warnings for anyone who wants to come up with a new business idea and turn it into a product or service.
Some of the reasons for the start-up failures included: taking on competition far bigger than the start-up, not having a business model, lack of vision, mistakes with research and picking teams, giving away a service for free and running out of cash to pay the bills, deadly strategic mistakes, not pivoting fast enough, delivering technology but lacking maturity of management skills, focusing on engineering first and customer development second, being too slow and focusing on the wrong things, lack of marketing skills, too much PR and no customer relationships, forgetting to focus on selling, not validating their start-up idea, not admitting that their idea wasn’t as good as they originally thought, thinking that they could make an idea work, failure to execute and having no business model.
I know that’s a long list but it’s worth going through it.
Staring reality in the face means that you have to be consciously competent. Without self-awareness and awareness of others and your market, you could be doomed. It’s heartbreaking to live with fear knowing something is wrong, staring at the headlights mesmerised like a rabbit in the road and unable to do something about it. But these start-up entrepreneurs finally could take no more and threw in the towel before they lost their shirts from their backs.
In his book “Jack” the former CEO of General Electric Jack Welch explains that when he started in his job his core values were reality, quality/excellence and the human element. By reality he meant getting any organisation or group of people to see the world the way it is and not the way they wished it were or hoped it will be. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, he said. Seeing reality as it is, dealing with it the way it is and not the way one wishes it to be, was essential for his strategy of being number one or number two in everything.
He recounts one of his first experiences with getting senior managers to face reality. It was in the power business. Managers forecasted orders for nuclear reactors but they hadn’t sold any for years and were unlikely to in the future. When he told them this he had dropped a bombshell. His hand grenade shocked them. But their views were completely at odds with reality. Jack asked them to read do their plan on the assumption that they would never get another US order for a reactor. Subsequently this team built a profitable fuel and services business that made money every year servicing the 72 active reactors GE had in service.
Any business no matter how big or small, even if it’s a start-up can benefit from a fresh pair of eyes. If you are too heavily invested in an idea, a concept, a product, a market you can become blind to your shortcomings and fail to see opportunities. It’s the quadrant in the Johari Window where you are unconsciously incompetent.
If you are looking for a no-nonsense, honest and practical guide on how to turn your new business idea into a viable product or service, put your name on the priority notification list for “Breakthrough Ideas”.
It doesn’t guarantee success – nothing can – but it will help you to not draw conclusions from data that is available or convenient, wishful thinking and erroneous conclusions.
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