As Asians, the most taboo word is fail. Like failing Math in elementary school (I got a good whipping for this, truth was, I didn’t know how to read Malay). Failure in relationship? Failure in career by getting fired? What ever the failure is, it’s not the end of the world.
In the past few years, I’ve had my share of failures. Almost all were costly as time and money were part of the trade. But there’s always a good thing about a business failure, you come back with vengeance, battle scars and loads of experience. So here’s what I learned:
1. Not Solving Any Problem
To make money, you need to provide a solution to a problem. No one will spend unnecessarily, especially in this age. The problem has to be big, it has to mean something. It has to annoy so much that it affects lifestyle, mood, livelihood, kids etc.
In my new venture, we always ask ourselves, what is it that we’re solving? Again and again. It’s been a year now, and we’re still asking the question. Why? Because we want to make sure what we do matters to our target market.
2. Solving Problem That Doesn’t Matter
Some problems are just too tiny to consider. Have you ever fell for the “forever sharp knife” on TV shopping? Who cares, we already have knives in our kitchen. We don’t exactly need another knife if what we have now is sufficient. Similarly if the problem is too small, no one cares. (BTW, I got IKEA knives, they’re awesome!)
3. Not Understanding Your Target Market
This relates to the previous points, but on a different level. To win a customer, you need to understand what they are going through, what are their pain points, how can you make them sleep better at night, what tickles them and more. The best method to obtain this is by asking your target audience directly. Another method is by ‘stalking them’ on social media (the data is there, use it!). This also helps to cross sell your future products. But these social media wizzards might not condone this practice as stalking can sometimes be perceived as a breach in social decorum.
4. Obsessed with Your Idea
The most common failure is obsessing over an idea. Let me be frank to you, your idea was already thought of and so does the solution you had in mind. It means nothing if it doesn’t solve any problem except for yours. While standing firm to an idea is important, learn to let go. Trust me, new ideas will arise. If you can’t let go, then do a market validation.
Sometimes the idea is too sophisticated to tell. My experience tells me, if you can’t explain your business in one line, then dude, move on.
5. Positioning or Location
We had this problem when we ran a Kebab stall. The problem we had was not enough traffic was driven to the spanking new mall. As a result we had very little sales and enough to stay afloat. Few months after, we closed. Positioning and location is key in business, online or offline. For online, being on the first page of Google is important and for offline, being accessible by your target market is highly sought.
6. Doing it For the Money
The worst of any kind of business, is doing it for the money. In order to get the best bottom line (profit), you shave right left center top bottom. Doing that hurts the end product. Yes, business will boom, but it will suffer in the long run and hurt your self conscience. Don’t go into business to make money, because once you have it, you don’t care anymore about anything else besides money. Instead have a genuine goal, for one of my startup is “Creating Happy Moments”. So by hook and crook, we have to do this even if it means tightening our belts.
7. Priced Wrongly
I hate to give this example, but look at Tutti Frutti. The first year of business was so well for them, the franchise bloomed like spring-time. Now, every shop I came across had workers with a frown and bored faces. Why? There had no customer and they were overpriced. Once customer got smacked in the face with such a heavy price tag, they never came back. Quantify the problem, price correctly. If you can’t, then model after your competitors.
8. Being Mediocre
This is a Malay dilemma. Open shop whenever pleased. Make something half hearted. Do you think customer will comeback for more? Don’t settle for just enough. If you can push further, do it. Give value to your customer, make them smile for a change.
9. Didn’t Test The Market
One of the most important steps before investing your money into business is ample research, by ample I mean testing the market. If you have a business idea, always test it with your target market. The Managing Director I worked for taught me the easiest way to test the market is to ask/say the following thing.
- Reaffirm with your target customer about their problem.
- Describe how are you going to solve it.
- And if you build it, would they buy it?
So there you go, 10 years of my experience. I might comeback to add more, but this is it for now. So to businesses and startup out there good luck. Remember we’re here not here to compete, but to compliment. If you have a business, do share on the comments below. I’d love to know what you do.
“It’s better to try and fail, then fail to try”