Abandon the fail fast, fail often, fail better, fail forward, and fail quickly mantras. While apparently still popular phrases in Silicon Valley, Rob Asghar, writing in Forbes, argues that these phrases are hype. Mark Suster, entrepreneur and now venture capitalist, believes that they are “wrong, irresponsible, unethical and heartless.”
As a solopreneur, I network often and am surprised at how often I am advised to take more risks and to not be afraid to fail. All this advice is from folks who are not investors. Since it’s my money that is on the line, I choose to ignore some of that advice.
But, in a world where speed to market is highly valued how can startups reduce failure risk AND move forward quickly? Here are five suggestions.
Understand where you are going.
Know what success means. Know what failure looks like. Write it down.
One of the biggest problems facing startups is identifying target market fit. What are the demographics of the users who will most likely buy your product? How do you find that market? How do you sell to that market?
It can be tempting to keep changing your product as you are analyzing different markets and the potential for fit. The risk is that you are spending money without really understanding where you are going.
How do you find that sweet spot target niche? If I had an easy answer on that question, my life would be easier, as well. Sometimes, I think following your gut is more important than all of the qualitative data in the world. It does help when the data aligns with what your gut is telling you.
Learn from past lessons.
So often, when I work with clients, they have no mechanism for analyzing what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and logging any lessons from their analysis into any kind of usable format. I’ve had people tell me that logging lessons learned is a waste of time. These same people keep making the same mistakes.
Know your competition.
While being overly focused on the competition can deplete energy and in some cases, cause founders to give up on a good idea out of fear, it is nevertheless important to understand the competition.
What can the competition teach you about the niche that might be perfect for you? What is the competition doing well and what are they doing wrong? If you are in a large market, you can’t know every competitor, but you can know the big competitive trends. And those trends might just help direct you into just the right place.
Spend your time on the most productive activities.
The Pareto Principle, sometimes called the 80/20 Rule suggests that 20% of the activities on your list will generate 80% of your results. Taken in another direction, 20% of your clients will provide 80% of your referrals, useful feedback, and/or sales.
So spend your time on the 20% of those activities that are likely to generate the most results. Don’t be afraid to prune your to-do list. You cannot do it all. Working 16 hour days is unsustainable and not good for your team.
Align where you are going with your passion.
On multiple occasions, advisors have recommended that I take actions that would move Smart Projex into a more mainstream project software world. That simply doesn’t excite me.
What are you doing in your startup that fuels your passions? While it’s important to have a direction, it is equally important that your direction excites you.
Need more help. Check out our free ebook on Project Management Basics for Startups.