I love to be right all the time, and if you’re starting a business, you probably do too. Think about it. You’re risking your time and money to build something that you’re probably not sure works, and throughout your business’s life, many people will advise you to quit and get out. Therefore, you’ve got to be pretty sure that you are right about it. As you’ll learn, confidence in your ideas and the product or service you’re building is invaluable. Because without it, you’ll get discouraged long before you achieve anything. But what about when you’re wrong? And how do you learn from it?
Dealing with Failure
Let’s be real here, okay? No one likes to fail. It doesn’t matter how many wise sayings and quotes we put up; failure’s never fun.
Unfortunately, as an entrepreneur, failure is something you’re going to be very familiar with. Many of the world’s biggest businesses and entrepreneurs failed multiple times before succeeding. And even achieving a modicum of success does not mean you’re immune from failure. Products will fail, services will fail, teams will fail. A lot of things will fail, and that’s a part of the journey.
So, how do we deal with it?
Accept that Failure happens.
One of our generation’s problems is the deception that we’re perpetually amazing, we can do no wrong, and our lives are meant to be perfect. This thinking makes us feel like there’s something wrong with you when things go wrong.
News flash; it’s not. Problems, failures, and troubles are a part of life.
As a business owner and a superhero CEO, you’ve got to come to terms with the fact that things will go sideways lots of times, and it may or may not be your fault. Once you accept this, it becomes much easier to bounce back after a loss, and continue being successful.
Ask WHY, a lot
Now that you’ve accepted that failure of some sort is inevitable, the next thing you need to do when it happens is to ask yourself WHY. Why did this venture fail? Why didn’t this investor agree to my proposal? What went wrong?
Understanding why your product or venture fails means you’re not likely to make the same mistake again. – Click to Tweet
Note, however, that asking why is not the same thing as rationalizing. It’s tempting to simply rationalize your failures away. Your product failed? “Oh, it’s because we targeted the wrong market”, or, “We didn’t have enough funding”.
Well, dear Elon Musk-wannabe, sometimes, the problem is that you built a really terrible product. Or that investor just didn’t like the colour of your tie.
Yeah, life’s like that sometimes.
What makes the difference between rationalizing and actually learning from failure then? Learning based on Data.
Learn With Data.
Let’s say you’re building a new app. You and your team spends months coding, fixing the UI, adding that fancy new button. Then you launch, and after a month, you’ve got only 12 downloads, and 4 of those were mistakes. You gotta admit it, that product failed.
Now, WHY did you fail?
If you’re going to make progress, and come out of that experience with any new information that will help you build a better product, you’ve got to figure out exactly what the problem is.
The correct way to find out WHY your product or business failed, is to ask the right questions. – Click to Tweet
Here are some great questions to start with:
- What problem was I attempting to solve?
- Who or what set of people have this problem(s)
- Are they aware that they have the problem?
- Did they understand what solution my product provided?
- If they did, why didn’t they buy it?
These questions look simple, but they are incredibly hard to answer. Chiefly because we’d rather rationalize the answers away. That’s why you need data.
For each of these questions, you can’t answer with feelings or emotions. Answer with fact.
For example,when you ask: What problem was I attempting to solve. Look at all the content you released about your product for answers.
Does your content explicitly describe th problem you’re solving? Ask your team members, what do you think we’re doing here? What problem are we actually solving?
If you get an answer that’s different from what you would have said, then no, you, and your company don’t know what problem you’re solving, and neither will your customers, so they didn’t give you their money.
See, you learnt something!
As you begin to ask questions about why your product failed, or your business failed, make sure your answers can be backed by data. Don’t assume. (That’s a topic for another day).
Build on What You Learn
What will make you a Superhero CEO, is your ability to learn from any mistakes or failure you experience. The only real failure is one where you didn’t learn anything, because you’ll repeat the same thing again. And that, according to the Chinese, is the definition of madness.
Make learning a lifestyle. Ask WHY a failure occurred, and ask WHY a success occurred. True mastery is built on predictability. You must know what works, and why it does to be able to replicate it.
So, dear CEO, to become a superhero, learn to LEARN.
Find out more about becoming a Superhero CEO in this series