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“You dare to fail fast,” read the job description for a leadership role at a booming startup. Quite brutal, and with a meaning that is not even clear. We guess that means we should be innovative, screw it up, learn from it, and then grow. Somewhere in the way of all this failure, we are also supposed to keep our jobs or keep our business afloat.
Failing fast always means failing
There aren’t many people or companies that really struggle but actively celebrate their mistakes. The problem is that failure doesn’t pay the bills. Success yes. And for millions of entrepreneurs, failing quickly doesn’t provide a game plan for success but an avoidance plan because we hesitate to find real solutions to often very difficult problems.
There are perhaps a few cases in which “fail fast” is a healthy mantra, such as in the case of a company that stuffed millions of dollars in venture capital to mitigate its repeated financial mistakes and failures. If a company doesn’t have enough money in the bank to fail quickly repeatedly, we never hear from them or their ideas again.
Most entrepreneurs aren’t blessed with venture capital money and simply don’t have the luxury of failing.
Related: 10 Lessons About Failure Every Entrepreneur Should Know
Catchy Quotes Won’t Save Your Business
There’s a quote from General George S. Patton from World War II that drives me up the wall: “A good plan executed violently now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
Okay, Patton, so I’m sending 100,000 troops on “violent execution” because it’s “much better” than next week’s perfect plan? Sounds reckless, right? Wouldn’t a moment’s pause for more strategic clarity be justified? “Violent execution” recalls another tired cliché, that “indecision is decision”. I mean, it really isn’t.
This is further twisted by CEOs who like to talk about jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down. (They stole that phrase from Reid Hoffman, one of LinkedIn’s co-founders, who popularized it a few years ago.) And I get it. Failures are inevitable when you take risks in business, and lessons learned should be learned, but when you encounter a big failure, perhaps the one that ends the business, famous quotes don’t provide of solutions.
Related: 10 Strategies for Entrepreneurs Facing Failure
How to deal with failure
Here’s what I learned from my own failures, which often required more than a quote and a quick dusting:
It is important to communicate with grace and calm about what may seem like imminent failure. We don’t want to cause panic in our business, but we need to be authentic and take responsibility for finding a solution if there is one. Turning a blind eye to the problem or becoming uncommunicative doesn’t help anyone.
It is also important to refrain from experimenting so aggressively that its “violent execution” becomes reckless. There’s a fine line between putting everything you’ve got into new ideas and just acting like a fool who shouldn’t be entrusted with a business.
Listen to your instincts. I used to ignore my instincts in order to appease advisors or gather damning evidence to make a more perfect decision. Yes, Patton warned me about that! However, acting impulsively – and yes, violently – was just as damaging. Balance is the key. You need to take the time to consider the data and your intuition.
Only then can your course of action consist of calculated bets. It’s smart to take risks and approach your business experimentally, but it’s not smart to accept failure as if it were the end game or even a necessary part of the game. process.
Related: The true failure rate of small businesses