How How To Avoid Making Mistakes Starting Your Own Business

You guessed it, you can’t.  The point is, one mistake even if very very serious, rarely means a company will fail.

I was reading Mike Taber’s (@singlefounder) post about “The Single Most Important Secret To Success” and found myself writing this retort. My single most important secret must be: Surround yourself with awesome people. This in turn, also maximises your chances of making fewer mistakes.

Surround yourself with awesome people

I’m not one for management gurus or training particularly, but Tom Peters said it with more conviction and clarity than anyone else I’ve heard: [paraphrased]

A CEO has just ONE role in life: the recruitment, motivation and retention of awesome talent

He rightly sights that even if you do that but nothing else, you’ll not go far wrong. It’s hard finding great people, but you have to keep going until you do; and follow your gut instinct: for people atleast, it’s nearly always right.

Even with the best team, you’re going to make mistakes and so are they.

You’ll make mistakes..just try & spread them out

Mike Taber sighted running a startup like flying a plane: making lots of small adjustments to the instrument readings towards a set goal. Largely, I’d agree. His analogy went on that making a big mistake when flying (not fueling fully when going transatlantic) might be fatal, but other errors might not be:

You can recover from most mistakes, while others are going to be catastrophic. Forgot to refuel the plane before heading overseas? Probably catastrophic. Didn’t do the best SEO for your website? It will probably cost you more to acquire customers by using AdWords, but ultimately is probably not going to kill your business unless you screw that up as well. If you compound your mistakes, your chances of failure increase dramatically.

This is indeed, almost without exception, the same for plane accidents. Surely sometimes wings fall off or planes just crash? err, No. Here’s a good example. One of the best known crashes in recent years was Concorde.

Urban myth maintains that it was the metal from an American DC10 which was run over, jumped up and punctured an under wing fuel tank, while it took off from Paris, full of German tourists on a chartered trip of a lifetime.

That incident did indeed happen, but what the official reports didn’t highlight were that also 1) the plane was carrying too much fuel (it was overweight, that means slower acceleration down the runway, harder to climb to a safe altitude) 2) it was overloaded with luggage (overweight again, see previous) 3) the maintenance team had left critical guide runners off the undercarriage so the plane skewed left down the runway on take off (lower speed, more dangerous, see previous) 4) Air France had not fitted the new improved tougher tyres to their Concorde’s that British Airways had.

If Concorde had not been overweight at takeoff, the catastrophic accident might have been averted

Only now do we see the real picture. Had one or all of these other errors not occurred, the Concorde might well have been able to climb clear and ultimately land, on 3 or even 2 engines of its 4.

So very rarely is one error or even one human error the cause of a fatal accident. In nearly all cases it is a whole chain of problems or bad decisions, usually 4 or 5, which culminate in a crash. The same is true with business.

Mistakes can even be beneficial

Crazy as this sounds, I’ll give you one example. With customers you can actually create more loyalty from solving a mistake effectively with them, than if they never experienced a problem to start with.

So next time you make a mistake, don’t fret or self harm- just learn from it and try to prevent similar situations and look out for the silver lining…there usually is one hiding somewhere.

ou can recover from most mistakes, while others are going to be catastrophic. Forgot to refuel the plane before heading overseas? Probably catastrophic. Didn’t do the best SEO for your website? It will probably cost you more to acquire customers by using AdWords, but ultimately is probably not going to kill your business unless you screw that up as well.
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2 thoughts on “How How To Avoid Making Mistakes Starting Your Own Business

  1. Interesting piece. As you say, air accidents are never due to just one thing, but a series of highly unlikely incidents/mistakes happening to occurr at the same time.

    Air France have now had four major crashes in recent years; the A320 that crashed into a forest at an airshow, the Concorde at Paris, the A340 written off at Toronto, and the unexplained A330 crash in the Atlantic.

    The French air accident authorities have been accused of covering up the real cause of accidents on other occassions, to protect the flag carrier and the French aircraft manufacturing industry.

  2. Andrew, I completely agree with your final point about solving mistakes for customers. If you “get in the trenches” with a customer and own up to your mistakes, you will breed a loyalty that is really hard to garner independently of those types of situations.

    I had a great customer who told me six months after solving a major issue for them that they had fully expected me to give up on it. The fact that I stuck it out and fixed their issue showed my dedication and made them a huge fan of my company and brought in more business later on.

    Good stuff.

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