NOTABLE! Most liked posts in thread: How many Business Failures did you have before success?
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1. Shopify store selling confectionery (failed, didn't understand my market)
2. Blog on controversial topics (failed, didn't persist and gave up after 3 months)
3. Web design freelancing (didn't fail, but I didn't try to scale so i moved into..)
4. PPC management (currently succeeding, hit 6 figures this year and growing HR so I remove myself entirely from the business)
As long as you learn something, each business is not a failure.
Not sure I can count the number of attempts, but I know it took me roughly 6-7 years from start of journey ( knowing ZERO ) to hitting good money in my choice of business.
It took me roughly 12-13 years though from the mindset of "I know Im gonna hit a million NET in the bank", to actually hitting it. This is me telling myself at 17 I'm going to make it.
So if you do the math, I spent the first 6 or so years in my 12-13 year journey floundering around not knowing what I should focus on or do. This was from the ages of 17-23. Once I did find my focus, it took another 6-7 years to go from ZERO to hitting my goal ( ages 23-30 ).
If most people attempt something for a year and failed ( and got their 6-8 failures above ), then I am pretty much on the same track like everyone else because it took me that many years once I got focused and started.
.Last edited: Nov 14, 2018
Depending on how you count - I'm up to 4 or 5.
The quickest thing a new entrepreneur should learn to help avoid mistakes (IMHO) is understanding their costs - fully and completely.
It's (relatively) easy to build up impressive looking revenue numbers - $100k in year 1 is not even remotely unrealistic for most businesses. But there's a very, very good reason why you don't often see the after-tax profit number being thrown around in case studies and success stories. The number of businesses running high revenue, low profit businesses is staggering. I'd even say it's the rule, not the exception.
Even bank account screenshots aren't great indicators - look at any business bank account after Black Friday and you'd be downright envious until you realize that the owner just ran the most expensive month of the year for advertising dollars spent, needs to do an expensive inventory re-order, is about to be bombarded with returns, and still has to pay their taxes.
I know I've been guilty myself of not understanding what I made in a year until I got the summery from my accountant after tax season. This should never happen.
Keep good financial records, then keep them better than that.
I've failed a lot. I've pretty much lost count at this point. I haven't "made it" yet, but at this point, I don't really care how many more times I have to fail until I succeed.
Something that @biophase said in one of his threads really resonated with me.
About how he doesn't care if a product gets a crazy amount of sales per month, just as long as it is a superior product, to be happy with even profiting an extra $100 to $200.
So that's what I'm focusing on now. I'm just focused on creating a product that is better than what is already out there.
Even if it barely sells any at all, I will feel good that I'm actually helping people and I will build my business one $100 product at a time if I have to.
This is the first time I’m creating a list of my failed attempts. Counting 5 real attempts in total and I haven’t made it yet. I haven't lost my motivation and will continue once I’m fully recovered from my burnout.
Attempt 1: International dorm finding platform for students
I started this with 2 partners: my brother and a developer, back in 2007. We were gaining some traction and wanted updates to the website but the developer wasn’t motivated enough. We quit. Now there is a successful platform called HousingAnywhere. In hindsight, I should have learned to develop it myself. Unfortunately, at that moment I hadn’t read TMF yet.
Attempt 2: Recruiting unemployed Spanish technicians to fill gaps in the Dutch market
I found a client and traveled to Spain to network with recruitment agencies and schools. In the end I couldn’t find the right people and the client lost interest. It was really hard to combine with my fulltime job. And it really didn't fit my personality.
Attempt 3: Weight loss blog and ebook
This was my first attempt in which I made money. Sales of the ebook were doing well using Facebook Ads but finally the audience got saturated. The blog wasn’t doing too well. I finally lost interest and quit.
Attempt 4: Clothing line for influencers
Together with my brother we had the idea to create clothing lines for influencers. For a percentage of the sales we would take care of all the design, manufacturing and distribution while the influencer would do the marketing. We found a client (influencer) and started working. We found a designer and a manufacturer. I traveled to Portugal to meet the manufacturer. 6 months later we had 3 sweaters ready for sales. It flopped and we lost 10k. We decided to quit. This is where I experienced the first signs of a burnout.
Attempt 5: Supplement brand
I got this idea based on my own health issues. I saw an opportunity to create a supplement brand. I jumped on the opportunity and gained traction using Facebook Ads. Unfortunately, not too many customers were reordering. This is where I noticed the importance of recurring revenue! And a productcracy. The product just didn't fill a big enough need.
It was also too niche for a small market like The Netherlands. I couldn’t find an insurance which covered sales to the US. I started thinking of products to add but couldn’t find a direction. I should have focused on a target market fist instead of being focused on a product. I gave this so much thought that in the end, next to having a fulltime job and 2 young kids at home, it caused me to burnout back in in April 2017. I’m still recovering from the burnout.
It's definitely hard to create a business but for sure the 5 previous attempts have taught me a lot. I hope these lessons will be enough to make the 6th attempt a success!
Last edited: Dec 13, 2018
- Focus on a market, not solely one product
- Focus on creating recurring revenue to promote growth
- Find a market and a solution that fits my personality
- Focus on something that has been done before and add my own twist/improve/be awesome.
- By finding something that fits my personality finding the next step will come to me more naturally. This will avoid me getting completely stuck and shift into a burnout.
6 for me. Seems like 6-7 seems to be the common theme here. With proper education and direction this number can surely be reduced.
The older I get the more I truly see how experience in entrepreneurship is at such a great toll to sanity and general well being. If I had to do it all over again, I would have focused so much more on finding a mentor. All of the pain and pitfalls that could have been avoided effortlessly.
The less money people spend, the more they complain and demand. It's to do with personality defects that disproportionately and causally affect the poor.
For this reason it is absolutely critical for new small businesses to do the best they can to screen them out, and target monied / higher-class groups instead.
You can always expand into their shitty market later once you've got the capital to create the necessary economies of scale and to hire customer service meatshields.
Haven't had the success bit yet, but haven't been swinging at it long (started in earnest roughly around the time of registering here).
Bona fide business failures so far: 2.
The first was something I had no idea if it would be in demand or not, but I just wanted to launch into selling a product to get my feet wet in business. It sold enough to make a pittance, which given the work put into it made it a failure. Learned a lot as to why it was a pointless venture from the get go, but couldn't have gained that knowledge without executing on it, so was worth it.
The other seemed like something that would be in demand, but really wasn't because I didn't properly understand that type of customer, but really couldn't have known they were a dead end without executing on this idea (they turned out to be the type of dumb-a$$ customer who claims they want a thing but absolutely don't want that thing -- kind of like how most gym goers start after new years and never go back after 2 weeks), so it was worth the test and wasn't wasteful.
Result: went broke, but the skills I built under those businesses were in demand, and the work I'd done acted as portfolio, so it allowed me to fall back to a decent job that paid well enough to rebuild savings at an acceptable rate.
What I did right:
- Targeted areas I had at least a little skill or interest in, which helped get them to market
- Didn't take on any debt, so just ended up broke instead of bankrupt
- Hedged my bets by making sure the work involved overlapped somewhat with skills that were in demand in the job market
- Worked at my fatigue limit for a sustained period of time
- Knew roughly when the play was a dud and when to ditch it, without giving up too early.
- Failed to get advice from people who knew what they were talking about. Boy did I try though. Unfortunately, finding these people turned out actually more difficult than working things out yourself. There is no correlation between how confident someone sounds in their advice, and its quality. Being an absolute braindead dumbass has never stopped anyone convincingly sounding like an authority on a subject. The best solution is just to learn the basic principles behind succeeding by reading biographies of successful men who are dead (the dead have no ulterior motives), and then learning the fine details yourself through trial and error. Always assume that 99% of people who open their mouths to give advice are as dumb as shit, regardless of how convincing they are.
- Didn't have enough runway and didn't try to find partners. Both would've boosted the chance of a timely success. More capital and a complementary partner or two would've allowed 2 more business plays in the same period, which may have been enough to start something that gripped.
- Didn't have enough understanding of different types of customers, and the market depth/breadth/money flow generally. Customer selection is probably more important than the product or service you present: a good offering cannot get money out of shit customers. Better to have a so so product that targets moneyed customers than to have a good product that targets nickle-and-dimers, is only considered a "nice to have... if I get a discount" to them, etc. I had no idea this was even a factor until I did more research and started to notice patterns. Now it will be a key factor going forward.
The overall value was: I learned why those two ventures failed, which is putting me on stronger footing for when I execute the next one.
MJ, you didn't have a 0 option!
So I really thought about this and I can honestly say zero. But I say this with an asterisk because I dabbled before. I had a blog with adsense, I had a hobby business (where I made it a business to get wholesale pricing) and I had real estate. But I don't think any of those really qualify as me really trying to start a business. My first real business was my ecommerce camo business that I started in 2007. This was the first one that I actually got an LLC, a business license and business bank account.
So I think I got lucky with my first one, but my next 3-4 businesses failed and I ultimately decided to stop trying to start more businesses and to stick and grow my first one.
This thread is such a real look at what it takes to be successful in business. Anyone just starting out should know this is the reality of being an entrepreneur.
Also reninds me of the Mark Cuban quote: “You only need to be right one time”.
For me, sitting around 3.5. And I’m sure I’m not done yet...
If we follow the strict definition of business existing when you make a sale, even if you have no formal business body that you can operate in, then of course lots of people can say they failed lots in that scope.
I stopped counting failed proposals, freelance gigs, resell attempts and so on. You can easily fail without a business structure in place, as they take longer to die.
Failure could also mean downsizing a company, wrapping it up and liquidating everything. Have we failed at that level yet? Of course you find fewer failures there, as fewer people have gotten up to that level.
Failure can also be more micro. Failing a business partner. A supplier. Employees.
One of my biggest regrets from freelancing is not following up with a client well enough to deliver some writing work. The guy was getting married, and he said he would continue our gig after the honeymoon. I congratulated him and wished him well. I respectfully did not bother him for too long a time, I must say, until the contract lapsed.
I hope he's alright.
I think we should fail safely, in a way that doesn't kill us or the business, or create a system that 'fails' for us. That is why folks have developed concepts like statistics and A/B testing as a means to 'fail' for them.
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