August 2, 2013
In the startup world, failure is cause for celebration. This is true for three reasons.
- Although not the preferred outcome, failure is a byproduct of risk taking. Taking risks is the only path to success.
- Celebrating failure reduces the attached stigma. Many fail to take action out of a fear of how it will reflect on them.
- Failure is synonymous with experience. As Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
That’s why, each Friday, we bring you a new story of an entrepreneur’s “failure.” Failure Friday is about helping you avoid common startup mistakes, it’s about squashing the stigma, and it’s about peering inside the minds of entrepreneurs who’ve achieved success because of their failures.
We’ve Got Jungle Cats, But Where’s The Beef? Back to the Basics.
I’m on a hotel rooftop in Miami Beach living out my dream assignment as an event planner.
The client’s a leading liquor brand, and no expense is spared: tents are pitched, a soon-to-be-huge band is booked, and there’s enough computer and video equipment on-hand to open an electronics superstore. I should also mention that I had rented jungle cats.
Fast-forward, now, to an hour or so before guest arrival, when what can only be described as a monsoon-esque cloud formation was lurking amid the once idyllic horizon.
With imminent doom destined to deter everything (gallant gusts of wind had already began to tamper with my top-only tents), my crew and I scrambled to breakdown the scene we worked so carefully to cultivate.
Impending weather turned into invading weather, in what felt like a hummingbird’s heartbeat. PC monitors, which were to anchor a most ambitious visual presentation, were now, rather ironically, flying through the air. The only beings on-hand with the reflexes to have avoided the peril of these projectile plasma screens would have been the jungle cats, whose cages now served as obstacles to the scurrying event staff and retreating cigar rollers.
The most amazing part, though? Everyone—client, venue, and my boss—couldn’t have been more understanding of the adverse circumstances. Now, that didn’t stop everyone—client, venue, and my boss—from becoming quite heated with me for failing to provide, of all things, enough food for the guests and a few other most basic party favorites.
While I was thinking about exotic animals, fantastical media displays, and all types of scintillating, but secondary, sizzle, all anybody really cared about, literally, was how much steak I wasn’t able to deliver. People left my event hungry, so none of the flash I had arranged for actually meant anything.
The connection between this mini imbroglio and being an entrepreneur is, I think, pretty apparent, but definitely worth reiterating. As startup owners, our products and services often burst onto the scene (making a Splash, if you will) and whet appetites for what’s to come.
In the quest to conquer our respective industries, sometimes our own expectations overshoot even those of our clients and users, causing us to get away from the basics that made our products great in the first place.
The new stuff may ultimately win the day, but it should never come at the expense of what you built your reputation on. Continue to deliver the steak, and you’ll be surprised how willing people are to endure your growing pains, staying by your side through even the most tumultuous of times.
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