Failure Friday: Manpreet Singh on Showing, Not Telling

July 5, 2013

3:00 pm

In the startup world, failure is cause for celebration.  This is true for three reasons.

  1. Although not the preferred outcome, failure is a byproduct of risk taking.  Taking risks is the only path to success.
  2. Celebrating failure reduces the attached stigma.  Many fail to take action out of a fear of how it will reflect on them.
  3. 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.

This week’s failure comes from Manpreet Singh founder of Seva Call.

Failure Friday: Show, don’t tell

manpreet-singhStartups are not cheap. Every entrepreneur I’ve talked to has given up more than they can count to make their businesses last past the dream stage. I knew going into this I’d have to give up a lot, I just didn’t realize what that meant when I started Seva Call. It’s an online concierge service that connects consumers to local businesses. We act as a marketing supplement for these businesses, but one of our initial downfalls was marketing our own name.

A business needs to make money, but to make money, an entrepreneur has to spend money. We need to spend money to talk to investors, purchase the necessary equipment, and hire the manpower to use said equipment to acquire said investors. I thought that after spending all that money, I might have seen some come in. My idea was great, I had investors, equipment, and a lot of really great employees and co-founders helping me. And, best of all, they all had passion to see the company come to fruition. The only problem was – how do we establish a client base?

We spent several weeks trying to make profit. These were the most unproductive and unsuccessful weeks we ever had. We were calling and calling businesses to entice them to join our service, but no one knew who we were and what we did. In turn, this kept us from accomplishing our goals and helping our clients. After months of planning and talking and spending money, we were getting the cold shoulder from the exact people we were trying to help. We knew that we had to make a change or all of our time, money, and effort would be for naught.

So, we took a chance. We realized that to prove our service worked well, we would have to demonstrate – not just advertise – the value that we brought. We had to work, no matter what it cost us. The perfect opportunity for this came about during the “Snowmaggen”. Remember that terrible snowstorm that left entire cities and neighborhoods shut down? Instead of being trapped, we decided to make use of the event. We purchased “snow removal” on Google Adwords and contracted a lead-generation service to help the people we weren’t reaching organically.

Once customers were experiencing what we did first-hand, and could see the impact we had, they were interested in our company. Through this we generated customer loyalty and a paying client base. I was wary about the investment in Adwords and the lead-generation service at first, the the payout and recognition was worth the investment.

Be willing to invest in showing off your company. Potential clients seeing the real-life impact is what will make the difference for your business. It will be daunting, as there is never any assurance – but, if you wanted security, you wouldn’t be an entrepreneur.

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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