In Silicon Valley, the phrases “fail forward” and “fail fast” are something of a mantra for startups aggressively building a minimum viable product, gaining market traction and pursuing venture-capital funding so that they can keep iterating and keep growing.
For these companies, iterations and tests are ways to quickly eliminate dead ends and seize profitable opportunities. If a startup spends two years of development before putting the product in front of customers, they risk burning through thousands – if not millions – of dollars of capital, if the market responds with a shrug. The better alternative is to experiment early and refine, refine, refine.
Maybe your business started this way, with a mind toward innovation and the grit to grow when faced with failure. But even the most innovative brands drift into complacency. Success can make leaders less willing to experiment. Maybe there are more decision-makers to wrangle, or client needs demand too much attention. Or perhaps you are outright afraid to do anything to compromise the position you worked so hard to achieve.
The problem, however, is that when you stop the behaviors that drove your growth in the first place, you still expect the business to grow.
When you first began and were scrappy and bold, you would knock on doors, hustle your network and try creative marketing campaigns to get yourself in front of prospects. You had a motivational culture.
Why do young businesses tend to behave this way?
They see the things their larger competitors aren’t doing. They see their complacency. And in that complacency, they see opportunity.
To continue driving the level of growth that got you to where you are today, you can’t leave behind that willingness to be scrappy and fail forward.
Here’s how you can keep that visionary startup mentality without gambling the business:
- If you try something, like a new marketing strategy, take a full swing and give it a reasonable amount of time to bear fruit. Too often we think about testing a new race car, but in our hesitancy, only give it a half tank of gas. Then we say, “Look, it didn’t go as far as we wanted it to!” and abandon the car altogether. Experiment, but don’t cripple the experiment from the start.
- Work with field-respected experts. Trying a new idea does not have to mean flying blind. You might not be the expert in a certain area, but you can find someone who is. Use expert guidance to cover your blind spots and to build bridges over chasms you don’t know how to cross. At some point, you as the leader have to recognize that you won’t always have all the answers.
- Recognize that failure and waste are two different things. An experiment failing is not ideal, but in that failure is the opportunity to learn. Was the target audience wrong? Did the new idea fail to resonate with them? Did your team fail to seize the opportunity? Did you misjudge where to invest ahead of demand? Unpacking why something didn’t work can be a valuable source of insight into what you do next with the business.
- Strengthen the business you already have. Often, the fear we hear from business owners is about wasting budget or putting the stability of the company in jeopardy by trying a new idea. If you are diligent about running your business efficiently and maximizing your other metrics – from conversion rates to ticket times to customer total lifetime value – you should have more capital and more freedom to look forward.
If you challenge yourself to be one those rare businesses that stays aggressive and stays bold, even when they find success and stability, you can rise above your competition to be one of the elite and innovative brands in your space. The only way to get there, however, is to continue thinking like an entrepreneur, scouting new horizons and boldly going where you haven’t dared to go before.
Brad Stoller is responsible for helping prospective clients to understand PT and its appointment-setting capabilities through a consultative approach. Before joining The PT Services Group, Brad was a State Farm agency owner, providing insurance and financial services solutions. Over the years, he has been a serial entrepreneur, building and developing businesses in real estate and marketing.