Saturday, October 6, 2012

Learning how to successfully fail

Well, the past two months have been interesting. As some of you will know I've left the security of full-time employment to start up my own business.  So far, it's proven to be an interesting experience. It's not the first time that I've started up a business so it's not uncommon ground.  There's so much to be done, which a mature organisation typically takes for granted. Everything from building the most basic marketing collateral through to implementing business plans.

One word comes to mind, "failure".  It's that word that most of us don't want to hear,  in fact most of us are scared of it. But I'm quickly coming to terms with the fact that failure is my best friend.  Not only is it my best friend but it's my best teacher.  I've tried many things and it would appear that very few things eventually worked out the way I expected. The more I try, the more I fail, the more useful I become!

If nothing else, right now I'm in the best position I've ever been in to tell you what doesn't work with social business and social media. While my failures can add value to a lot of business executives, the real value is found by understanding "how" to make things work.

Here are some of the things I've learnt so far.

1. Listen.  You've probably heard it before, we have two ears and one mouth therefore our listening to speaking ratio should be of the same proportions.

2. "Others" first.  The founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, in his first telegraph sent out a single word to his troops; "Others". It's easy to tell other people about what I can do for them but it's hard to show them the value in what I do.  I constantly have to put myself into their shoes and understand what it is that's most important to them. Speaking to people within information technology, marketing, human resources and executive leadership requires extremely different approaches.

3. People like simple.  I was speaking to a Chief Executive Officer about social business. His first thoughts about the term 'social' had nothing to do with employee productivity, cost saving or innovation.  He initially thought it was about a business having a 'social conscience'. Which wasn't something that he was particularly interested in. At the end of the day, clever marketing terms can add a level of complexity which is rather off-putting.

4. Innovation comes at a cost. I'm quickly discovering what it takes to be innovative. No, I'm not necessarily talking about coming up with new ideas, rather I'm talking about finding innovative ways to implement both new and existing ideas.  Earlier, I was talking about failure and how it can be our best teacher. However, failure, a key component to innovation and success, comes at a price.  The key is, how can we produce more successful ideas and less time?

5. It takes time to build relationships. We often want to sell products and services to someone, but the fact is that people like to buy from people they 'like'. This means that I'm having to work on building relationships with prospects and customers. I'm learning it's not an overnight success, but it takes time. I don't have time to build relationships with everyone therefore, I'm having to be selective about who I spend my time with. Building relationships with business people is no different to building relationships with friends. Why? As I said, people like to do business with people they 'like', therefore I'm working on friendships.

Anyway, you're probably wondering why I'm sharing this or why I'm not sharing all of my success stories. However, I'm choosing to be open and honest about my experience so far. I welcome any feedback, opinions or views that you may have. There are people out there with a lot more experience than myself, what have you found that works or doesn't work?

2 comments:

  1. Nice Post Vaughn. I agree with your points completely. I too have owned my own businesses, and one of single most important point I have found is as CEOs talk about their desire for their workers and the organization to perform at high levels, if the cultural and political costs for that transformation exceeds some internal threshold they have, their first decision is to push back.

    That is where the building of relationships are so important. That structure allows leaders to listen to your POV, and even though their initial reaction is to disagree, your relationship provides the planting of the seed for eventual consideration to change their minds

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  2. Hi Richard, thanks for your comment. You've just confirmed that I'm not alone in what I've been thinking.

    Yes, a lot of what I talk about with senior executives will require a cultural transformation within the business. As you pointed out, there is a tipping point when it comes to changing culture versus the value of social collaboration. This is where I've left out what is essentially a key component to building relationships and that is, gaining trust.

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