Most Essential Step to Starting a Small Business is Failure

In the Steps to Starting a Small Business series, I’ve covered a lot of information you need to know if you’re planning to start a small business.  However in my enthusiasm, I left out the most IMPORTANT step in starting a small business.

Sometimes – the path to creating a successful business is paved with past failures!

Allow me to share a real life success story.  The story begins with the familiar tale of a prospective business owner who is waiting for his/her idea to be honed to “perfection” before taking the giant leap of starting a business..

Cath Lawson is a serial entrepreneur who shares her “been there, done that” wisdom on her blog and in the recent  post 10 Life and Business Lessons she advises that you act upon your great ideas immediately – don’t wait for them to become “perfect” in theory!

In what has to be one of the best posts of 2008, Jason Cohen shares what has to be the wisdom of the ages in Your idea sucks, now go do it anyway, with the following line:

Here’s a newsflash: Your idea probably sucks, and it doesn’t matter because your business will probably be about something completely different

I understand that telling someone that their business idea sucks is along the lines of telling a new mother that her baby is ugly.  However,  if you’re wanting to start your own small business you will save yourself a lot of time, effort and frustration if you embrace this truthas you begin your journey to starting a business:


Chances are – if this is your first attempt at starting a business -you’re going to fail.  Even if it’s it’s not your first attempt – you still may fail.  It’s OK.  Embrace it.  Because in the course of your failure- you’re going to learn A LOT about what to do – and not to do- as you start a business.

If you don’t like failure (and who does?) you can pick up some advice from others who have been there done that – like Naomi Dunford in her Online Business School course.  See that’s the “magic” in the whole e-learning arena.  Someone falls down, gets his or her proverbial nose bloodied a few times and lives to share what he or she has learned.  You can learn from their experience by paying a few shekels and picking up a copy of the shared wisdom.

Can you learn to create a successful blog without my 8 Week Power Blog Launch course?  Of COURSE you can!  However, picking up a copy of the course is probably the quickest and easiest way to come up to speed on learning the basics of blogging.

However, there comes a point where you have to put down the books and start taking the steps to start your small business.  A great place to begin is to embrace the fact that your original business idea will probably bear little resemblance to the final form your business will eventually take.

When you launch your product or service, the market is going to respond.  Your reaction to that response is going to determine the next step in the evolution of your business.

I’ve written before about my original “vision” for supporting my blog clients.  My original “vision” was creating online videos.  Know what I quickly discovered?  My clients want written words that they can print out – set on their laps and read as they go along.  Believe me, online video tutorials are a LOT easier to create than ebooks -but my clients hate them.  Come to think of it – so do I.

Jason Falls writes about a successful product launch in “Is The Future Of Advertising Public Relations?”  Notice, the product was sent to bloggers without an “stipulations”.  One thing about bloggers – they don’t respond well to ‘manipulation techniques’.  Web 2.0 is all about authenticity and had the product been a dud – the bloggers would have let Jason’s client know it with scathing reviews.

Which is probably why you should “wait” to solicit reviews from bloggers and other social media outlets until you’ve done quite a bit of beta testing.

Beta testing – where you test your product or service out on REAL people and find out EXACTLY what they think of your business idea.

See, one of the best kept small business success secrets is to defeat doubt.  Doubt can be a good thing.  It can keep you from submitting a flawed product to powerful bloggers who reduce your fledgling business to dust.

The greatest business idea in the world can be reduced to dust if self doubt is allowed to run rampant but on the other hand, that doubt can be a driving force towards business evolution.

One way to inflate self doubt is to begin “shopping” your idea to family and friends for their advice. If your family and friends are your greatest cheerleaders and/or potential customers for your new product then seeking their input is a GREAT idea. Unfortunately, if your family and friends aren’t part of your ultimate target audience, their opinion may be entirely irrelevant.

Remember that some of the most successful businesses around today began as an idea that bears little resemblance to the final (successful) version of that business.  That’s because great businesses evolve  as the result of lateral thinkingMarelisa writes on her blog:

Edward de Bono … coined the phrase “lateral thinking” which involves approaching problems from diverse, unexpected angles and from different perspectives. Dr. de Bono meant to differentiate lateral thinking–in which you nudge the mind to make sudden turns– from vertical thinking, which is logical and sequential thinking.

See, lateral thinking doesn’t just happen at the outset of your business idea.  The best business ideas usually have several “incarnations” before they achieve their final state of being.

If, in the immortal words of Tom Volkar,  you want to kick some marketplace ass (read the whole post – it’s inspiring!)- get ready to take a few punches to the face when you step into the ring

Finally- it’s ultimately important to recognize that business success doesn’t lie in product development – it lies in marketing of that product or service.

Lynn Terry has a great blog post “Content vs Marketing” with some outstanding examples of crappy content that has succeeded thanks to great marketing.  She offers some great examples of where great marketing made average or even inferior products run away successes!!!

It’s so common to get caught up in the pursuit of the “perfect” business idea.  As if somehow, business success lies in the idea instead of the execution of the idea.

If you’ve already taken the leap, how closely does your current business mirror the original “business idea”?

If you haven’t, are you waiting for the perfect business idea to start your business?


  1. Hi Kathy – thanks for the link and also for the great resources. You’ve mentioned many of my favourite bloggers here. Lynne’s post was spot on.

    And I loved what Jason had to say about just getting on with it and trying. Where would we be today without FlickR and Paypal? My blog would have no pics and I’d have to start accepting overseas cheques as payment for stuff. Yes – I did do that a few years ago. But I can’t imagine anyone sending me a cheque now and waiting until I’ve received it before they can download their digital product.

  2. damn Kathy that’s what I wanted to write about 😉 I guess we both had the same idea after the discussion. cool article anyway

    Julius Kuhn-Regniers last blog post..How to Speed Up WordPress

  3. Cath
    I can’t imagine the internet today without paypal!

    I’m sure you can do better! GO! Yes – take that as a challenge!;)

  4. Thanks for the terrific complement! I like your additional insights, taking this concept from examples to more a practical, applicable place.

    I particularly like your point that “shopping” ideas to friends only gets you down. It’s like talking about names for your baby before its born — don’t. If you just pick one and state what it is, people are more accommodating.

    Besides, if they don’t like the idea then, as Emeril says, go get your own show. 🙂

    Jason Cohens last blog post..Breaking the Rules

  5. Hi Kathy: What a great set of resources, thank you for including me. I agree that if we sit there waiting for our business idea to be “perfect” before we get started we’ll waste a lot of time we could have used implementing, learning, readjusting, and trying again. I once read an article quoting New York City Mayor Bloomberg, who’s a very successful business man, in which he said that while other companies were still “perfecting” their original product before launching (making sure that every last detail was perfect), he was already launching the third version of his product, and this is what made him so successful.

  6. You don’t have to be perfect to start, but you have to start to be perfect! Thanks for the link.

    Hunter Nuttalls last blog post..Twitter – Social Media’s Hidden Gem

  7. Hi Kathy – I can always count on your enthusiasm to renew my optimistic spirit! We’d be nowhere if lots of creatives didn’t let failure get in their way! Thanks for the reminder!

  8. Hi Kathy. I truly enjoyed this post and it all makes sense… but, I feel a vent coming on. May I? It’s not directed at you or anyone in particular.

    I’ve been reading so much info over the last while. And so much of it is conflicting… and I’m fed up! “If you’re gonna write an ebook, this is the way to do it, or else you will fail”… and then I read… “Stop planning and just do it”. Whatsup with that? I mean what’s a young blogger to do? Huh?

    Davinas last blog post..A Positively Dysfunctional Christmas

  9. I’m just gonna wing it! 😉

    Davinas last blog post..A Positively Dysfunctional Christmas

  10. Jason –
    Thank YOU for the inspiration!

    Marelisa –
    I LOVE the Bloomberg quote!!!
    It’s true – we spend so much time in the “lab” that we don’t get it out and try it in the REAL world.

    Hunter- I’ll be using your quote sometime soon!!!

    Betsy – THANKS!

    Davina- Be a Nike ad – just do it!!!

  11. Kathy this is such a needed message for budding entrepreneurs to hear. I’ve stumbled it by quoting you on this truth.

    “A great place to begin is to embrace the fact that your original business idea will probably bear little resemblance to the final form your business will eventually take.”

    So powerfully true – many stop themselves because they just want to get it right. Rubbish! They can’t get it right until they get it going.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Works last blog post..Five Tools to Sharpen Your Authentic Edge

  12. Great article, Kathy. Failure is the pathway to success. I’ve failed at a couple different businesses in the past, and I have learned a lot from both of them.

    Alan Maters last blog post..Expectations When Starting A Work From Home Online Business

  13. Some awesome resources Kathy, thank you. I got some serious reading to do!

    I gotta say, I think I got the failure thing down to a science (slight lol), but it is definitely working into slow success!

    Sometimes it just takes a while to find your groove…..or niche as it were. 😉

    Dennis Edells last blog post..What Criteria Factors Into Your Link Love/Round-Up Posts?

  14. @Davina: It is never true that “The only way to do it is X or you will fail.”

    When you read such things, consider X, decide if it makes sense to you, and put it in your back pocket in case it’s useful.

    Trust yourself. Who has time to second-guess everything? Just because someone else was successful with X doesn’t mean it’s the only way, nor does it mean it’s the right way for you.

    Jason Cohens last blog post..Breaking the Rules

  15. Jason-

    A hearty AMEN to that!!! If there’s one thing that’s “true” it’s that there isn’t a universal “truth” to how to succeed!!!

  16. Definitely well put info in the post. Any individual that has taken the necessary steps to venture out and start their own business understands that failure is key to opening doors for success.

    I can’t even remember the many Eureka days that i’ve experienced after blindly venturing into an alleged bright idea that I’ve been passionate about. it’s a very motivating force to fail, figure something out and reap the benefits of the greatest asset of all time (the human brain).

    Loved the post and I’ll be looking forward to reading more from you!
    .-= Surviving The Recession´s last blog ..Proposed Financial Reforms Lack Teeth =-.


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