Making Failure Your Friend
As an entrepreneur, it is jokingly said that we suffer from “shiny object syndrome,” where there’s always a great opportunity around the corner and everything is an optimistic path toward achieving the next million dollars. When I had to close my B2B marketing and branding agency in September of 2014, that feeling of optimism shifted toward desperation. I was 10 years into my entrepreneurial journey, unemployed, with zero savings and no back-up plan.
With nowhere to turn, I decided to invest my time in coaching. I didn’t want to make a rash decision for a short-term paycheck, and I figured coaching would give me a sounding board that could help during my transition. Around this time, I joined another entrepreneurial group called “The Dynamite Circle,” and through their blog, I was introduced to Taylor Pearson, a coach and writer who is both thoughtful and analytical— exactly what I needed.
He introduced me to a concept called a “decision filter,” which I would go on to use as a compass.
This decision filter would be the outcome of a homework assignment consisting of two parts: First, I had to describe where I needed to be in three years, personally and professionally. But there was a catch: I had to stay away from picking a specific business category. That was the point of the exercise. Second, using those outcomes, I had to decide what factors my future business needed to have in order to make my goals a reality.
For example, I knew I wanted to spend summers traveling with my family, so one of my factors became a location-independent business model. I couldn’t own a business that required me to be in an office every day. My other factors were: matches my background and experience; is a niche area that allows me to be an expert; has a prospective market and monthly recurring revenue; and is easily explained to prospective customers.
All of these factors were tied to my core values. If an idea didn’t include these tenants, it wasn’t a good fit. I can’t begin to describe the huge release of anxiety I felt after making decisions through this new filter. Almost immediately, I had the clarity I needed to move in the right direction, and when I looked back at all of the short-term opportunities I was offered, none of them passed my decision filter. With my new mindset, I took on several consulting jobs and waited for the right idea to present itself, which it finally did in December of that year. By January, I had launched Design Pickle. In the first week, we went from zero to US$6,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR) in sales, and as of our first anniversary, we’ve surpassed US$100,000 MRR. I couldn’t be more proud.
I think the most empowering thing about this whole process was that I made these important decisions for myself. Taylor facilitated the process, and I had the support of my friends
and family along the way, but in the end, I was the one to choose the business proposition that was best for me and my family. Early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I sought external validation far too many times, rather than look inside myself when I needed answers. It wasn’t until I jumped in and fully trusted my instincts that I realized just how strong failure can make you. In fact, failure turned out to be my best beginning. Now I’m using this experience as a building block for bigger and better things.
Russ Perry is an EO Arizona member and founder of Design Pickle, an unlimited and flat-rate graphic design service. Contact Russ at firstname.lastname@example.org.