Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Shift Fast (A formula for success)

By Eric Greene

Do you want to succeed? Then you have to fail.  Fail early.  Fail often. That’s the path to your success.

No, I’m not “smoking something.”  Stay with me here.  Nearly every successful entrepreneur I know has the “fail fast” mentality in common. It has also led to numerous successes stories along my own journey.  Here’s how and why failure works – and why you should embrace it:

  • For starters, don’t overthink it. Just put your idea out there: be it your product, your service, your new pricing model, your website, your new brand, marketing campaign, whatever.   
  • And then pay really close attention.
  • Because when you stop overthinking and put your idea out into the world, customers vote with their actions.
  • Do they like what you’ve put out there? Do they buy the idea? Do they literally vote with their wallets? Are there rave reviews? If so, double down.  Accelerate.  Put the petal to the metal.  Do more of it.
  • On the other hand, what if people aren’t buying it? Is there negative feedback? Flaws? Great! As long as you fail fast, react quickly, learn key lessons, make your adjustments and evolve.  

THE IMPORTANT PART IS TO RECOGNIZE FAILURES QUICKLY AND SHIFT QUICKLY.  THAT’S THE CYCLE OF FAIL/LEARN/ADJUST THAT LEADS TO SUCCESS.

By way of example, I was a part of the research and development team behind OxiClean.  Its original company Orange Glo was a true Colorado success story, with its founders ultimately selling the company (OxiClean plus a handful of other household cleaning brands) for $325 million in cash. But the true lesson lies in what led to this. 

The Appel family (founding owners) first began warehousing OxiClean in their garage and selling it at home shows, one bucket at a time.  In doing so, they quickly learned a whole lot about what to do, what to say, how to market and how to sell their product. When they did right, customers voted with their wallets.  When they made a misstep, customers criticized or stayed away. They learned and they learned fast. 

Over time I became a research arm for this cycle.  We tested spokespeople (including the famous late Billy Mays), positioning, messaging, product color, scent, pricing, packaging, product ease of use, product efficacy, instructions and more.  We listened hard.  Yes, sometimes we failed. Not everything we tried worked.  But when we failed, we made sure to fail in a hurry, learn quickly, adjust and evolve.  And in the end, yes, we sold a hell of a lot of OxiClean.

I’ve repeated this formula time and time again in my own business ventures (fail fast, learn, adjust….not the OxiClean formula – that’s proprietary).  I’ve also made sure my clients do the same. This all works because customers are excellent critics.  They may not be able to tell you what they want in advance, but once they experience something they either love it and buy it, or they don’t love it and don’t buy it.  You just need to pay attention, listen hard, fail fast, learn fast, adjust and evolve.  

Do you want to succeed? It starts with failure – as long as you embrace it and learn from it.     

Eric Greene is a proven executive turned success/executive coach + team facilitator at the Greenehouse (www.GHouseCoaching.com). Pouring my experience (startup, 3 successful entrepreneurial ventures, former President, CxO, EVP/GM) into helping you work smarter. Lead better. Stress less. Kick ass.  And find more joy in doing it.

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