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Monday, October 14, 2013

How to Restart as an Entrepreneur After a Big Failure (or False Start)

One of the hardest things to do as an entrepreneur is to restart after a failed venture.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret that I haven’t told many people. When I first launched Overcoming the Fear of Uncertainty, it didn't go as well as I’d hoped. While I received a lot of positive feedback from the people who did join and actually went through the course – the issue was that not that many people joined and  went through the course! It was my first information product, and was released long before I’d ever even considered using the word “marketer” to describe myself in any way shape or form. I made a lot of mistakes with that first product.  Some of the biggest ones being:

  • Solving a problem people didn’t know they had.  Most people don’t say “man, if only I could get rid of all this uncertainty, then I could do whatever I wanted in life!” Even if that was the root of their inaction, I shouldn’t be the one trying to show them that – at least not by getting them to buy a product.
  • The content wasn’t clear – While the title was pretty self explanatory, most people didn’t really understand exactly what they were getting.
  • There was no pre-launch warming people up to the idea of joining –  I was still writing the sales page the night before the launch. There was no lead up or anything to build interest and excitement.
So while it was (and is) a good program, the marketing around it was terrible, and ultimately led to the product being a bit of a failure during it’s first year.

Picking Yourself Back Up

It can be pretty demoralizing when something you spent months working on and had such high expectations for, didn’t quite get where you wanted it to be. However, it’s how you move forward and recover from that, that really matters. Every single entrepreneur has failures and setbacks – that’s how you learn what works and what doesn'tWe’re going to use my failure with Overcome Uncertainty and subsequent success with Location Rebel to look at exactly how to restart after a big failure, or just as importantly, a false start.
It can be really easy to get super-excited about a new entrepreneurial venture, only to have it go nowhere.  If you’re going to reach your goal lifestyle and have that lifestyle business that allows you to do what you want, when you want, this post is going to be really important.

Assess your situation
When you’re trying to bounce back from a failure, you need to be brutally honest with yourself.  No more sugar coating things to make yourself feel better – you need to be willing to drill down and rip your process apart in order to get to the root of the issue.

Here are the questions I ask myself every time I’m trying to regroup and learn form a past flop:
  • Was the messaging clear?
  • Did I sell the features or the benefits?
  • Was there a need?
  • Was I creating this product or service for me or for my customers?
  • If something didn’t even get off the ground, was it because it was a bad idea or because of my own flaws?
  • What was the conversion rate? Where did people drop off in the process?
  • Were there competing products or services? Was my price too high? Too low in relation?
  • Have I talked to potential users and asked why they did or did not buy it?
  • Did I leverage testimonials or consult with customers during the creating of the product/service?
Answer these questions, and develop some tangible takeaways and things you could have done differently.
For instance, if the messaging wasn’t clear, decide what would have made it clearer, and be cognizant of this when working on your new project.

Review exactly what worked (and what didn’t) in previous ventures

When I was early in the planning stages for Location Rebel, this is exactly what I did. I assessed everything about the Overcoming Uncertainty launch and really focused first on the things I found to be the biggest issues. In this case those were:
  • Make the messaging much more clear. People should know exactly what this product is and what they’re going to get. “Build an online business that you can run from anywhere in the world.” That’s clear.
  • Get people excited about the product way before I release it. I just kind of threw up the sales page for Overcome Uncertainty.  With Location Rebel I had a 2 and a half month launch process that resulted with me selling out every spot in 48 minutes when I finally launched.
  • Ensure that I’m solving a tangible problem people know they have. I talked to dozens of people and reviewed hundreds of comments on Location 180 to make sure that people were looking for solutions that allowed them to build this type of business. Not only did my research shape this product, but it completely shaped the foundation of the Location 180 brand.
It’s important to remember that this assessment works regardless of whether it was a specific product/service that failed, or an entire business venture.
Maybe you tried to build an SEO writing business and things just never panned out for you. These same questions are all still relevant, and can make the difference between success and failure if you try and fire it up again.

Set realistic and measurable goals

Ok, so now you should have a pretty good idea of what went wrong with your last project.  But how do you ensure you get and stay on the right track when you restart?
You need to know what success looks like.
The problem with most goal setting is that people say things like “I want to be making $5k/month within a year.”
That’s a perfectly respectable goal, but there are two problems with it:
  1. While tangible, you can’t directly control your income. Goals that will lead to making the money will keep you from getting frustrated if you don’t get there. Cold call 50 new clients this week is a better goal.
  2. Without many smaller goals, you’ll never feel like you’re making progress.
Let’s talk about that second one a little bit more.
Starting a business is freaking hard. If all you have are big lofty, long term goals you’ll never notice the incremental successes, and all of the little things that lead to long term success.
Outline the process you’re going to have to take to be successful, and set small goals all along the way:
  • Buy a domain name
  • Get your first comment or inquiry from your website
  • Make your first $1
Goals like that will remind you to celebrate the little wins, and will get you excited during every step, as opposed to making you feel like you’re stuck in the mud and not making any progress.

Make sure you’re offering something that others want (and know they want)

We mentioned this in the review sections above, but I want to take a minute and really highlight this concept, because in the end it’s probably the most important thing to keep in mind when starting a business.
If you can assess what people’s problems are, and offer them they solution they’re looking for – then you’ll never have trouble making money. Before sinking days, weeks, and months into something make sure you’re going to be offering something that people know they want. 
Sounds easy enough, but how do you actually figure out what people want? You talk to them.
I’ve seen advice all over the place about sending people a survey (and I’ve probably even given that advice in the past), but the reality is, the information you get is usually worthless.

When I did my first survey for Location Rebel, I asked about price.  I said how much would you be willing to pay, and gave 4 options, the most being $250+. Do you know how many people said they’d pay that?
Zero. Do you know how many people have paid more than that for access? Hundreds.
People don’t spend much time on surveys, and even if they did, it can be difficult to get useful information – regardless of how good your questions are. So how do you get good, useful information about what they really want? You ask them questions, and start conversations. I try and start conversations with as many email subscribers and readers as I can, simply by asking them a question and asking then to respond to it.
I get often get much more valuable information from one of those conversations than I would a survey with dozens of responses.
Not to mention I’m building a a relationship in the process which ultimately benefits both myself and the reader. So here’s how you find out what people want:
  1. Ask people (readers, friends, other contacts, etc) what problems they’re facing right now. If you have a specific product or service in mind, ask him the same question as it relates to that topic directly.
  2. Compile responses in one place.
  3. Review and assess
Pretty simple, huh?
The more people you talk to and listen to, the more information you’re going to get that will help you build a business around a major pain point people have.


There’s one other very important piece to the startup puzzle: accountability.
Many people simply can’t hold themselves accountable, in fact, that’s probably one of the biggest reasons you failed to begin with.
So when you restart you have to find a way to hold yourself accountable.
Find a community of likeminded people and work together to ensure you’re reaching your goals.
Write a check to your significant other for $500 and put it on the fridge – if you don’t do everything you said, they get an extravagant gift.
Try a more condensed work schedule to keep you focused.
Whatever it is, think about what it’s going to take to find accountability and treat it as one of the most important parts of the process.

Moving Forward

Starting a new business after a previous failure or false start can be an intimidating process. However, success lies from proper planning if you follow these steps, plan accordingly, and remember to celebrate the little wins all along the way, you’ll be successfully working on your own in no time!
Image Credit: Fresh Start via Big Stock

Originally Posted on SeanOgle


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