You’re gonna fail (aren’t you?)

If you’ve ever gone on an ‘office away day’ or a ‘team bonding morning’, there’s a task with which you might be familiar.  Essentially, it involves teams of five competing to build the tallest tower possible in the space of around twenty minutes.  What’s the catch?  The only things you can use to build it are:

  1. spaghetti,
  2. glue, and
  3. a tennis ball.

Yep, a tennis ball.

One interesting fact about this is that young children often do better in these, and similar exercises, than adults.  Essentially, as a people starting a form of organisation, our children are often better at it than we are.

With that in mind, we’re often asked ‘What makes your business succeed where so many small businesses fail?’  Ok, we’re never asked that, but with half of businesses (run by adults) failing within four years it’s an important question.

What makes some startups succeed where so many others fail?

We’re no experts, but we thought we’d join the debate into startup success with 6 inputs of our own.

1) Stick to something you know – if you’ve studied law, perhaps becoming an astronaut isn’t for you.  Indeed, 46% of the businesses that fail do so because of sheer incompetence.  If you’re going to stand a chance, think outside the box, yes, but stand somewhere nearby it;

2) Stick to what you’re good at – running a business involves your core skill, sure.  Maybe you love magazines and you’re good at writing, so you want to start your own publication.  That’s great, good for you.  However, alongside those skills, there’ll be marketing, accounting, hiring and firing, people management, the list is endless.  You can’t be good at them all, so find out what you’re best at and stick to it.  Whether you’re hiring someone by spending your life savings or paying them in beers, it’s worth hiring in, and working with, talented people;

3) Ignore everyone, for a while – if you think something’s a good idea, have the confidence to run with it for as long as you continue to think it can work, but…

4) Don’t ignore the market research – on the flip side, just because you think it’s a good idea, if you keep failing, it might be because your only customer is you;

5) Have a mentor – it helps to have someone, or multiple people, who don’t benefit directly from your business around you.  These are people who you can bounce your ideas off of, if only to hear yourself openly talking about them.  Talking to someone else, who isn’t already bought into your venture will really prompt you to justify yourself;

6) Succeed – but work out what success actually means for you and do this right at the beginning.  What are your goals?  Do you want to become the next Google, or would three people having heard of your product count as success.  Whatever it is, that’s what you should be defining yourself by.

So if you’re one of the 86% of people who think they can do anything they set their mind to, those are some of the things to think about. Whether it’s a startup out of your bedroom, business with venture capital behind it, or hey, the next Google, think about it.

And remember, if you’re stuck on what to do, you can always ask your kids.


We have a new free app which allows you to time activities, secretly or otherwise.  Check it out here.