5 Failures That Will Grow Your Business

If you’d asked me about failure four years ago, I would have said that it’s a setback, an embarrassment, something to be ashamed or anxious about. Now that I’ve been running a business for a few years, I can tell that that I was wrong. Big time! I believe failures are lessons. They teach you as much as your successes, they can propel your business forward – if you let them.

Don’t be afraid to fail! To move forward, every business has to embrace change and go out on a limb at one point or another. Sometimes, it works; sometimes, it doesn’t have the results you were hoping for. And that’s okay.

These are five failures that turned out to be real-life lessons.

#1 Building a team with the same strengths as you

For your business to thrive, you have to surround yourself with people who are experts in their field. As a founder, you’re passionate about and an expert in something (like strategy or marketing), but you can’t be the best at everything – nor can anyone expect you to be! Rather than building a team who has the same strengths as you, it’s important to hire people with skills in different areas of the business. By doing that, they will complement each other, propel the business forward and build a company culture that celebrates strength and diversity.

Hire talented people, and trust them to do their job. 

#2 Listening to everyone’s advice

I learnt this in the early years. When I launched my start-up, I listened to anyone who had an opinion. In other words, everyone. Needless to say, I ended up with lots of conflicting and confusing information – mostly from people who knew nothing about how the industry worked. This was really illuminating for me. The fact is: you know your business better than anyone. You know what YOU are capable of. We all need help, but be selective with whose advice you take on board. Ask yourself these questions: How well does this person know the market? The customer? The business model? The timeframes? I now have a tight-knit circle of people that I turn to when I have questions, or just want to talk through an issue.

#3 Trying to please the masses

If you’re struggling to capture audience attention, you may be targeting an audience that’s too broad. My business sells a specialised product, and over the years I’ve discovered the value of niche marketing. Instead of dropping advertising dollars on every mainstream platform, and every demographic, I’ve found it’s more effective to find your evangelists. These are the people who are going to sample, review and most important, promote your product. The people who are going to rave about it to anyone who will listen. Passionate people are the best customers, and they can end up doing the bulk of the marketing for your business. We’ve spent time, energy and resources into building up a loyal following, and it’s paid off in more ways than one. We have better community engagement, better turnouts to events, and better sales.

Once you have an audience, it’s important to ask their opinions on how to improve. If you make a mistake, own up to it, and if you’re stuck, throw out the question. Your customers are your business. Every business aims to solve a problem, or provide something to make their customers’ lives easier or better. So, their opinions matter. Plus, studies show that giving feedback makes customers feel more affiliated with the brand.

#4 Not knowing when it’s time to stop

A big part of business is experimenting. At GoodnessMe Box, we review our programs and initiatives regularly, and put them into one of three categories: stop, start and keep going. While it’s essential to know when to launch something, and when to continue with it, I believe it’s even more important to accept when to stop. What isn’t working as well as it should? What isn’t cost-effective? What’s haemorrhaging time and resources? What isn’t serving the business’ vision, or helping it to meet its short- and long-term goals? Be brutally honest!

I’ll give you an example. In 2017, we made a conscious decision to stop events for a year as we had too much going on and were losing sight of our ‘main thing,’ which is subscription boxes. They’re back up and running for 2019 as we’ve solidified our business and systems. But at the time, we had to stop and remember, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” (my favourite quote from the book Scaling Up by Verne Harnish). Calling it quits may be perceived as a failure, but it’s not. In many cases, it can help you with big-picture planning, and put your business on a path to growth.

#5 Hiding your story

As glamorous as it may appear, running a business isn’t easy. Most days you are faced with hurdles to overcome. For the sake of optics, you may think it’s better to pretend that everything’s perfect. This is what I think: vulnerability is incredibly powerful. Don’t close yourself off. Instead, when you’re faced with hurdles, when you’ve gotten through a rough path, or whenever the time is right for you, share your story. Transparency creates credibility. In today’s landscape, the story behind your business is valuable. Tell your audience about the highs and lows, and you’ll strengthen that connection. Who knows, you might even help another business owner in your position – and that’s always a good thing!

Peta Shulman is the CEO of goodnessmebox.com


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