In one form or another, every entrepreneur has heard the advice "fail forward, fail fast." While the advice is useful at times, especially for young businesses and new entrepreneurs, as a business matures, the size and frequency of failures should lessen.
The idea "fail forward, fail fast" was born in Silicon Valley amidst an explosion of startups. At its heart, this now-cliche means to help entrepreneurs avoid becoming paralyzed by fear. During the high stakes, high pressure early years of any organization, the thought of slamming against the rocks can cause almost anyone to freeze and waver on important decisions.
Fail forward, fail fast encourages you to make a decision quickly, and if the decision was a mistake, to learn from it, improve, and move on. The ability to nimbly make decisions and be willing to take risks is crucial early-on. If you correct your errors and keep forward momentum, eventually you will reach some level of success.
However, once a business moves past those explosive, just-figure-it-out early years, businesses should no longer treat failure so glibly. That isn't to say you should stop innovating or stop making mistakes. After all, mistakes can lead to innovations when you treat them correctly. Rather, it's acknowledging that once businesses reach a certain size, failing fast and often can crack the foundation you worked so hard to create.
During those early phases, you forge successful processes that ultimately drive your success. Once you've established those processes, you need to unplug from the fail fast, fail forward mindset and instead start refining what works so you can get as much out of it as you possibly can.
So stop and think about your business. Do you have a foundational processes that can be refined and improved?
If you do, focus on making them bulletproof. Get good at them, and learn how to repeat them over and over to drive your profit. In fact, with new coaching clients, this is often our primary focus throughout the first year.
We simply help clients:
- Identify the processes that are generating profit in their business.
- Draw a tremendous amount of attention and focus to those processes so they can be refined and improved. The goal is to make them as efficient and effective as possible.
- Create metrics and measurements around the process. Data should drive any changes you make to these foundational processes.
Where are you in your business? If you're failing forward, failing fast, think about how it is affecting your business. Is your process for creating customers, keeping customers, and delivering your goods successful? Rather than failing forward, can you refine the process, or improve it to create repeat customers and referrals?
I think most will find it's time to ditch the fail fast, fail forward mindset and instead focus on strengthening the foundation you've already built.
Alex & Cadey Charfen are the Co-Founders of the Charfen Institute.