How to Avoid Failure.

Early success came easily.

A few months into my first start-up & we had already had an App Store feature under ‘Best New Apps’, 15k downloads & a team of 11 working on the product full-time.

A year or so later & it had gradually fizzled out, with stagnant growth & a team still not quite sure of what problem we were solving or how to go about working that out.

The problems were myriad. As CEO, I can identify a number of failings which contributed to our demise (for which I am largely culpable):

  1. Hiring the wrong people. Then failing to replace them when I knew this Product R&D based on assumptions, rather than strict testing at every stage
  2. Thinking ‘more equals better’: Lacking focus on one single function, we expanded to 5 large features, none of which had been validated Lack of experience: Inevitably the lack of experience in tech & business (as 21-year old students) meant that, although we were fast learners, we were constantly making mistakes
  3. Not good enough: Quite frankly, going into an incredibly over-saturated market like travel content means the product had to be absolutely world-class. 10x better than any Lonely Planet guide or travel app that already exists Solving a non-existent problem: The beauty of travel is in the unexpected encounters & discoveries, something we were trying to replace with an efficient way to discover what to do, rather than a better way The Harsh Reality

The reasons may vary per company — and some shouldn’t really be included in this figure as ‘proper’ companies- but, please remember:

90% of companies fail.

Failure is an inevitable part of entrepreneurship, so don’t feel disheartened. However, do remember that every decision you make is either taking you closer to closure or on the path to huge success.

Therefore take every decision you make seriously. Asset each decision with the importance it deserves.

“Do not mistake urgency with importance.”

Realising that there is an urgency to your work means that you must take everything you do seriously. It means being determined to find the best possible solution to the problem you are solving. For me as a designer, that means relentlessly testing my work before it is put into production to make sure it is the most useful version possible for our users.

Remember also to stop & think regularly to focus on the bigger picture:

If all is going well, what is the commonality? Is it that you are testing each product decision properly?

If something isn’t working, what are you doing differently to solve it?

How to focus on constantly improving?

Schedule a 15-minute weekly deep evaluation (ideally before you start planning your week & get over-involved in the day-to-day work)

Write down one thing to improve this week RIGHT NOW. Schedule a reminder into your calendar or simply add a note next to your desk with your goal written on it

Remember also that ambition dictates action: What are your expectations? If they are low, you’ll be happy doing mediocre work and setting mediocre goals. If your expectations are huge, your results will be 10x better than you thought possible

As you come to the end of this piece, if you only take one thing away from it, then let it be this: knowledge does not have value.

Only knowledge put into action has value.

Unless you act on something, there will be no results. Unless you utilise knowledge in your life, then you will not see improvement or growth.

Do not find yourself in a situation where your company has failed & your left in an empty office thinking ‘what if’. What if I had used a few productivity tips to help me focus? What if I had built the right product? What if I had spent more time on prioritising my tasks?

Relentlessly search for knowledge, relentlessly convert that knowledge into action & you will find that success is inevitable.

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Henry Latham

Henry Latham

Founder, Prod MBA

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