CEO Sundays: Top Benefits Of Failing Early On

By May 18, 2014


“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

It sounds absurd, but the fact is that it is impossible to never fail. If you compete in sports, there will be games you lose. If you start a business or roll out a new product, failures are inevitable. What matters most is what we do with the knowledge that comes from failing; this is what determines our greater successes.

Fail Early

At Zenman, we implement user testing and use focus groups on new ideas (products, companies, etc.). This helps us get feedback quickly and iterate on product features and functionality without long, expensive development cycles. As smart as we think we are and no matter how intimately we believe we understand our clients, the value of measurable data from customer reaction in real time is unparalleled.

For example, when we worked with Ibotta on the UI/UX of their startup application, the creative team designed low-fidelity paper wireframes that we put in front of the target audience to get real-time feedback. The person would hold the paper like a tablet and when they touched a drawing of a button we would give them the next page representing app workflow. By altering the user experience in real-time, we are able to identify potential pain points and opportunities that saved time and money in product development.

Retrospective Meetings

I used to call these a post-mortem, but ‘retrospective’ has a more positive tone and these meetings are meant to improve our process. Every project we finish concludes with a retrospective meeting made up of the entire project team. We also have a company-wide retro every two weeks. The improvements that come out of reflecting on the most recent two weeks are so valuable that we have mandatory 100% attendance, from the company President to newest intern. Our retro meetings consist of everyone putting sticky notes up on the white board under three categories (Smiley Face = Happy About, Puzzled Face = Confused About, and Frown Face = Sad About). We then talk about every single post-it note, and if a change needs to occur we capture our ‘to do’ items and assign them to the correct team member.

By continuously learning through our failures and successes, our processes are constantly being refined. The ongoing evolution creates a more fruitful culture for both our team and our clients. It has been said that, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” By consistently elevating our processes and workflows we empower our team to come up with solutions collectively that make their lives better. At Zenman we believe in working smarter, not harder, and our results speak for themselves.

Fool me once…

As a business owner I have made many mistakes along the way. From clients “misplacing their checkbooks” to the toxicity of staff issues remaining stagnant, these mistakes can have dramatic impact on a business. By embracing our failures as opportunities to grow, it is possible to gain great value. For example, we changed our payment terms to billing every two weeks for time and materials. Now we always receive final payment before delivery, thus mitigating our risk of nonpayment. When a problem arises within our team we address is immediately before it escalates to the point it impacts client work or the rest of the team.

In business (and in life) there will be times when you fail and times when you succeed. Both are equally important, and it’s the ability to learn from our failures that lead to greater success.