What this is not: A blog post about overcoming failure that led to great success.
What this is: A blog post about coping and getting back in the saddle after a failed launch.
My business plan was solid. Client base was huge. Deliverable was clever and necessary. Subscription-based product meant recurring revenue. Cost of production low. Pre-launch research was aggressive and detailed. My financial backer was enthusiastic. The pitch-deck was super. Prospects were teed up.
And my project flopped. It was a total, miserable B2B publishing flop.
Cue the horror-movie music and the self-loathing. And the Ben & Jerry’s.
However, my awesomely failed business plan, now twelve months in the ground, taught me a lot. Since I’m a list guy, I thought I’d share my lessons-learned on coping with the sting. You DO come back from it.
Here are some of my thoughts on easing the pain of a failed launch:
For those of you contemplating a new brand or special project launch, these points can serve as motivation— to not be afraid to fail.
It’s just business.
Try not to treat a failed business idea like a failure in your personal life. They are different. In my case I had a financial backer for my launch and I was horrified that I let them down, as I was a very big fan of the company and had friends there. But I know I put everything I had in it. I even started spending my own money to make it work. After closing the project, I came to the realization that I failed, but I wasn’t a failure.
Ask the SBQ (Single Big Question).
Ask yourself: “Did I truly do everything I could to make this a success?” If you can answer “Yes,” then you can let it go. And you only have to ask yourself this question once. You did or you didn’t. Get some sleep. You missed an entire season of Game of Thrones trying to make this work. This was my mantra and it really helped.
Don’t hide it.
The first few months after my big flop I wanted to disappear. I didn’t reach out to publishing friends or people who have walked a mile in my shoes. When I finally opened up a little about it, a good friend said, “That’s nothing. I counted an entire trade show revenue twice on my balance sheet, never noticed and over-projected my EOY by two million bucks.” Another said, “Don’t ever apologize for trying to succeed.” As an incessant apologist and people-pleaser, that was music to my ears.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
Don’t do this. You didn’t do it when you had a chance. Game is over. This is all just wasted time, thinking about what you might have done differently.
Go back to your Core Awesomeness for a while.
After The Flop, I wanted to get back to basics and (luckily) landed a great gig with a boutique B2B company. A year later I looked back at an absolutely killer year with a lot of successes. The bitter taste had receded a lot.
Do something small with lower expectations. Work just as hard to make it happen. Give yourself a win. But wait until you find the right opportunity. It took a few months in my current gig to find the right niche to fill, but that opportunity did come along and the sales team nailed it.
So, fellow niche-peeps, failing stings. But don’t let it define you or carry it so close you lose perspective. Remember, the fact that you’re even able to consider a new launch and have the assets to do it shows that you’ve already kicked some serious butt in your career.
More about Tim: Tim Hermes is Vice President and Group Publisher with Business Sector Media, LLC, publisher of Environmental Leader, Energy Manager Today, and the ELEMCON Conference. He’s a 20+-year b2b publishing veteran.
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