Fail Forward Fast In 2021

Ever screw up royally? Take comfort, you’re in good company…

As the saying goes, when the tide goes out you can see who’s been skinny-dipping. Well, there were a hell of a lot of naked people standing around grappling to salvage their business when the COVID tide went out. Some have recovered and many simply surviving, fumbling around in the dark trying to navigate their best through the murky water. Of course, some of my members are reporting their best year’s ever, with sales AND profits up 20% to 40%. That’s been us this year, I’m happy to report, with sales back UP and recovering from a very devastating 2nd and 3rd quarter. At least for now…

And the reason I say that is because in business, you’re CONSTANTLY battling ups and downs. For every “win” you get, you hope to not get more than 3 or 4 losses, and that the win more than makes up for the setbacks. No one – and I do mean NO ONE – makes 100% right turns, 100% correct decisions, 100% success in everything they endeavor to do.

This is a big secret of successful people that doesn’t get talked about much or focused on: most fail at what they set out to do most of the time.

The difference is that they keep striking until they get it right, failing forward FAST, adjusting, trying again, going over, under, around, through. Michael Dell is known for his innovative idea of creating custom, made-to-order PCs. What most don’t know is that was not his original plan, but rather what he ended up doing to keep the business going when he failed to get any retailers to distribute his products. Bill Gates’s original tech idea and company was called Traf-O-Data – a company he started with his business partner Paul Allen that would process traffic data collected by state and local governments to provide insightful reports to engineers. It was a total failure. George Steinbrenner, former owner and managing partner of the New York Yankees, bankrupted his first basketball team, the Cleveland Pipers. But he eventually led that franchise to an amazing comeback with 6 World Series entries, setting a record for one of the most profitable teams in Major League Baseball. Steve Jobs was booted from his own company. Walt Disney’s first animation company, Laugh-O-Gram Studio, failed to take off and was forced to close when an important distributor went out of business.

In the world of marketing where I live, “failure” is a part of life. Of course, marketers don’t ever have failures – we only have “tests.” And I say that with no pun or humor intended. I learned a LONG time ago that if you can’t stomach a lot of uncertainty and a high risk for failure, marketing is not the field to belong to. As marketers, we go into every campaign knowing it could totally, completely flop. Of course, we do everything we can to prevent that from happening, but happen it does. Often. Starting every business venture in this frame of mind is, candidly, the most productive way to go about things. It forces you to mitigate losses and pay close attention to how a campaign is rolling out. We can often foresee problems a-brewing if we’re watching leading indicators and make corrections along the way.

At the moment, there are a LOT of ways you can quickly go sideways. The unpredictable and much interfered with economy, the virus, cyberthreats and more. But this is not a reason to stay home and hunker in the basement. Now more than ever, you need to be testing and trying new services, new products, new markets, new pricing strategies, new offers, new messages and new approaches. If you continue to “fail forward fast,” you’ll eventually strike upon something that is a total home run.

Just remember, failure is not final UNLESS you give up.

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