“Well, we came out and did our best.”
“We didn’t make our goals, but it was a learning experience.”
As a business person, how often to you say one of these phrases?
Because if you’re saying them too often for too long, they’re becoming a crutch.
I have a friend who’s been starting a business for a 14 years. He tinkers around, trying to develop his product while putting out life’s other fires. At the same time he’s got a lot of sweat invested into it, and is serious enough that he got a patent for his design.
Recently, he tried a Kickstarter campaign to raise some capital so he can further test his prototype. He created his page and asked my opinion as a marketing professional.
I looked it over. It started with a tired headline about how this product (for privacy reasons I won’t divulge the product here) is a “revolution” in the industry. Things have stagnated, but this product is going to change the way people engage.
He has some homemade videos that “demonstrate” him using the product in his backyard. This is totally out of context of where the product actually would be put to use.
In 14 years he has nobody in the industry commenting on or demoing his product. He can’t actually demonstrate the main benefit of the product at all.
I advised him that I didn’t think his Kickstarter campaign would go anywhere with this presentation.
He did it anyway.
After a few weeks, he sent an email to me and about a dozen other friends, asking if we could back his campaign so he could get off the “stigma” of having zero backers. He said he realized that he wouldn’t get the project funded, but was doing what he could because it would be a learning experience.
I read the email in stunned silence.
14 years in start-up mode, and he’s still doing things as a learning experience? I know he’d say: Well, I’ve done the best I could with what I had.
This guy has been letting himself off the hook with these phrases far too long. The truth is he lacks the business acumen, marketing knowledge, and – frankly – the focus necessary to give him a realistic chance at success.
He hasn’t taken the risk, overcome the fear, or thought through a strategy with enough effort. A learning experience is an excuse to continue to tinker. His “best” is a dishonest excuse for the truth that he’s only half-focused on what he’s doing.
Sometimes you’ll do your best and come-up short. Failures are legitimate learning experiences.
But competitive business is unforgiving. If you start using these phrases as an excuse because you didn’t own a compromise or made a flimsy effort, you’ll never get out of the backyard.
Be honest with yourself. Know the difference between legitimate testing and just buying more time. If what you’re doing isn’t worth your best, own it.
Every business person who failed claims to have done their best. But that you didn’t do enough and instead made excuses for yourself is a lesson you can only afford to learn once.