I Hate to Fail…but Here’s 5 Tips on Doing It Quickly
I recently had a meeting with Becca Mockalis of the Hyatt House to discuss working together as part of EasySeat’s Concierge Connection for shows coming to the Comcast Theatre in Hartford. During that meeting, I mentioned that I like to fail quickly, which, coming from someone running a high-growth company, sort of surprised her. It’s a quirky turn of phrase that I like to use when referring to taking risks like opening a new location in Hartford. In reality, the intention is not to fail but to eliminate over-thinking and take action. Failing quickly is a required skill of any successful entrepreneur and here are 5 ways to get really good at it.
1) Ensure the downside is low – This is probably the most important factor when setting off down any path. As long as the potential risks are low, move forward with the plan. In the case of the Concierge Connection program, the worst case scenario is that customers don’t take advantage of the added services. The only thing really at risk is some extra brochures and a little extra time stuffing packages of tickets. In other words, it’s ok jump into the shallow end of the pool with both feet.
2) You must be able to measure – Taking advantage of low risk opportunities is great so long as you know if they are actually working or not. There must be some quantitative measures, like units sold or number of referrals, which can quantify success or failure. For example, through its first full quarter, our new Hartford location has been break-even. By tracking the incremental profitability of the location, we know that we’re not failing, but we’re not necessarily succeeding either.
3) If it’s failing, let it fail – Any new initiative, especially if it’s your brainchild, can be hard to let go. Entrepreneurs can convince themselves of anything, regardless of what reality might actually indicate. If the numbers indicate it’s failing, the initiative is failing. No matter what the voices in your head say, it may be time to just let it go. The core of failing quickly is to actually fail when it’s appropriate to do so.
4) Plan for success – Despite the misnomer, the goal is actually success. So, there must be a plan for it before ever launching. A successful initiative can take on a life of its own and subsume the core business. Just ask Napster who saw their product, which was intended for a group of 30 friends, get downloaded more than 15,000 times in its first week . Without having an understanding of what to do in the case of wild, or even mild, success, the weight of your own achievement can drag down the business.
5) Prepare to pivot – Sometimes, a program will neither succeed nor fail which should be fleshed out by the metrics. These same metrics can provide valuable information on what changes could be made to get to a successful outcome. In some cases, complete change of direction may be required and, in others, only minor tweaks might be required. In either case, adaptation based on results is imperative in this process.
Entrepreneurs are natural risk takers, so failing is not something that we typically fear. That fear can sometimes lead to taking unwise, unnecessary, or poorly thought out risks. To fail quickly, you don’t abandon the risk; you simply add some method to the madness. Failing quickly simply means being agile enough to take advantage of new opportunities, and smart enough to abandon those opportunities when they don’t prove fruitful.