Are you at the stage where you’re trying to figure out if your product is ready for launch? Perhaps you have a business idea that has been stuck in your head, but you’re too afraid of failure to take the plunge. I had these issues during the first few years of launching Bloomforth (BF). If you feel this way, I want to share with you the concept of failing forward.
This concept was originally introduced by John Maxwell, the author of Failing Forward. Failing forward is about turning failures into successes. It’s about embracing your failures, not avoiding them. In doing so, you’ll learn more about your company, your products, and more importantly, yourself. I’d like to share the origin story of Bloomforth, and how I’ve used the concept of failing forward to re-invent my company and the way we build our products.
BF was originally a market research company aimed at providing strategic research for smaller companies. This could range anywhere from market, to financial, to operational research. Having a background in finance and marketing, I found that the larger companies heavily relied on outside research and consulting firms to answer some of their toughest questions. In the beginning, I tried to duplicate this model for smaller companies—of course I failed and my idea didn’t go very far. Turns out, most small business owners don’t want to pay for this type of information—they are too capital and time constraint to even think about hiring a consultant, let alone buy research!
But after getting rejected more than I can count, I simply re-routed my efforts in finding out WHY small businesses were failing, and WHAT they needed. The search for these answers lead me to an interesting conclusion: There is a technology gap that is hindering small retailers all over the world from succeeding in the modern world.
But how am I going to build a system that would close this gap, and how am I going to get customers to even see the value of this system? You’ve guessed it…by failing forward.
After months of development, we rolled out InnoVentory, an easy to use, inexpensive inventory management system. Shortly after that, we rolled out FlashChec, our point-of-sale app, and then BookEm, an appointment booking app, and eventually myMailer, an email marketing app. With all these new products being rolled out so quickly, we failed to market them correctly, failed to create meaningful user guides, and also failed to fix all the critical bugs. But the biggest failure I made during this period was the lack of focus on our core customer base—which is retailers. As a result of my blunders, we have many new sign-ups in the service industry and restaurant industry, which yielded little revenue growth. Instead of focusing on the retail space (our first customer is a retail boutique), we were casting a wide net with massive holes hoping to catch every fish, but the reverse happened. We allowed all the sustainable fish to pass right through. Luckily, I was able to recognize these failures, all because I launched early.
I found that by launching early, I was able to figure out which product and feature was needed and which was useless. Before we would spend countless hours and tons of money on features we thought were “cool”, only to realize that these add-ons provided our core users with little or no value.
Another thing I’ve learned is customers have a general idea of what they want, but don’t ask them to describe the idea to you. Henry Ford once said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” People knew they wanted to go faster, but that was it. The car was meaningless to them until they were able to experience an actually automobile. Obviously Ford first car was an utter failure, but his persistence and his ability fail forward made him successful.
In conclusion, no one has all the answers from day one—but if you are willing to fail forward, you can quickly find the answer and improve your product for your next iteration.
So if you have an idea that you want to test, DO IT. Start failing, and fail fast!
Before I go—a shameless mention—Bloomforth was created for the business owners who have an inner geek. People who love analytics, notices trends, and crave meaningful information. It was created for people who hate operating on multiple platforms, paying multiple vendors, and for people who are constantly finding ways to improve and grow their business. So if you are that type of business owner, check us out at www.bloomforth.com.
Till next time,