4 Lessons from Successful Business Failures to Learn FromPosted by On


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The thought of making mistakes in your new business venture can be daunting, even paralyzing. Fortunately, you don’t have to take the knocks and learn from the mistakes yourself – below, you will find hard-earned lessons from failures of some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business owners.

Failure Goes Hand-In-Hand with Innovation

According to Jeff Bezos, he’s made literally billions of dollars on failures, owing to failed investments such as Pets.com, Kosmo.com and the Fire phone. His company, Amazon, has reported annual revenue of $177.866 billion in 2017.

As a child, Thomas Edison was regarded as ‘unteachable’ by his schoolteachers. He would go on to lose several jobs due to low productivity and go through roughly 1,000 failed attempts at creating the lightbulb. Nevertheless, eventually, he would accrue several patents to his name, including the lightbulb and the movie projector.

Sir James Dyson went through a staggering 5,126 failed prototypes before developing the right one, which would later become the Dyson vacuum cleaner. Even then, his invention failed to catch on in his native UK, and only later gained widespread success on the Japanese market.

Mistakes and failures will happen. It’s the inevitable side-effect of trying to do anything worthwhile. Use them to your advantage by following the footsteps of Bezos, Edison, and Dyson: test and modify your product or service using the feedback you get from your failures. There’s a reason one of the best known entrepreneurial mantras in recent years has been ‘fail often and fail early’.

Understand Your Customers’ Needs Before Launching Your Product

There is a well-known anecdote about Steve Jobs dismissing the idea that the customers know what they want, when presented with market research for the Apple Mac. This is only half true – Jobs was aware of the customers’ need for a home computer that was simple to use, but didn’t believe that the market research would reach the same conclusion.

The first version of the Apple computer was eventually a failure, but the following iteration, developed during Jobs’ time at NeXT, focused on creating a user interface based on customers’ feedback, and ended up being wildly successful.

The lesson to learn here is that even visionaries can get carried away with their perceived idea of a product that would fulfil all the needs of the customers. Instead, gaining actual feedback and investing in customer-oriented market research will make sure you don’t end up wasting large amounts of money on a product only you will find truly useful.

Don’t Go at It Alone

In an interview with buffer, Leo Laporte, the founder of the TWiT network, stated that the vital step towards the success of his business happened when he hired a business partner who could handle the side of the business he had no experience with.

Shane Snow, a co-founder of Contently, shares this sentiment, saying that several of his first startup projects (one of which ended up being remarkably similar to early Pinterest) failed because he didn’t take time to gather the right support.

As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to ignore the instinct to oversee every aspect of your company. However, no matter how innovative and hard-working you are, there are sure to be certain areas where you simply don’t have enough knowledge or experience to handle on your own. Most frequently, this involves marketing, law and finance.

Finance is especially important here, since poor money management can spell doom for a company just starting out. Because of this, make sure you hire an accountant who will help you get through all the financial obstacles and ensure smooth sailing in the crucial early days of your business.

Your Business Demands 100% Focus

After successfully bootstrapping a successful software company, Dharmesh Shah, the co-founder and CTO of HubSpot, decided that his company had the right team to run smoothly without him, and that it was time to start a new project. This proved to be a mistake, as the team at his original company felt abandoned, and the new startup didn’t feel the pressure to generate revenues, as Shah often wasn’t there to oversee it directly.

Jayson DeMers, the founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, had a similar idea and was met with similar results. After the failure of his second venture, he returned to AudienceBloom with renewed focus.

In both these cases, Shah and DeMers felt confident enough in their original business to make the mistake of thinking they could continue running the with only half their attention. In reality, their split attention caused their secondary ventures to fail. Learn from them and keep in mind that to grow and develop, your company needs you to give it your full, undivided focus.

Being able to learn from your failures and adapt, building a product or service that fulfils the actual needs of your customers, assembling a strong team and committing yourself 100% to your venture are just some of the lessons that failures of business leaders can teach us. If you know any more insightful stories of triumph through adversity, please share them in the comment section.

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