Each morning, just after I step off the elevator and exchange my usual rehearsed pleasantries with the 17th floor receptionist, my eyes are consistently drawn to the same sticker mounted on the wall behind the front desk. This sticker, which is one of hundreds that adorn the backdrop of our co-working space, simply reads, "Fail Fast. Succeed Faster."
As an entrepreneur of a growing business, I've come to learn that this adage not only rings true, and for a bevy of reasons, but that these four words are ones to live by.
But first, some daunting statistics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 50 percent of new employer establishments (aka small businesses with less than 250 employees) survive five years, while only about a quarter make it past 15 years. If your business happens to be in one of the riskier industries, such as a restaurant or retail store, the likelihood of failure is even greater. So while many entrepreneurs open their doors with the expectation of a long and prosperous road ahead, the unfortunate certainty is that most will be forced to reconsider. However, we have a reason to be grateful to those willing to take the risk of starting their own businesses; according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses employ more than half of our country's workforce.
I'm confident that the truths I have learned in the two plus years since founding BRIC Language Systems will assist you in navigating the road to riches faster than you ever thought possible.
1. Have a plan but don't be afraid to alter it. BRIC looks drastically different than what I had envisioned in my original business plan. Over time, I realized where the greatest supply and demand imbalance existed in the market and I positioned my company to compete here.
2. Have patience. Regardless of how quickly you anticipate your business taking off, it will not happen overnight. My first customer was the toughest to obtain, but once I had a positive track record established, business came easier as I had credibility. That being said, once business picked up, it was not an invitation for me to rest on my laurels.
3. Always strive for growth, but make sure you are prepared for it. Growth that occurs too rapidly can have a devastating effect on business. As a good rule of thumb, customers are generally not forgiving. You need to ensure that your customer feels his or her business is valued, especially if it is first-time business. Not having the proper resources available to handle an increased customer base is a quick way of destroying the value of your brand that you have worked so diligently to build.
4. The hardest part is finding the right people. There is a good reason why the most significant expense of almost any business is the employees. You may have a fantastic idea but if you lack the right people to implement and manage the business, the possibility of success quickly diminishes. For my businesses, the small operating budget makes attracting top talent difficult. However, I realize that the caliber of our teachers (as well as our approach) is what will ultimately differentiate us from our competitors, so I spend what is necessary to ensure I receive quality educators. It is important to avoid cutting corners to save a buck because more frequently than not, it will come back to bite you.
5. Network. The more people you meet, the more people you know that can set your business on the course to success. It's always difficult going to networking events at a Chamber of Commerce but well worth it. We developed our relationship with Shanghai Normal University through an expat event in Shanghai and knowing a former University President here in the U.S. It's how we built our China tour and how we've developed numerous corporate clients. The old adage is true: In business, sometimes it's not what you know but who you know.
In a world where 75 percent of tech startups fail, it is important to have a plan, adapt and do it fast. Let the sticker's words stick with you throughout the day. The sooner you realize that something is failing, the quicker you can fix it and the faster you will ultimately succeed. This would be the ultimate rule of thumb: When something is not working, change course. Fail Fast, Succeed Faster.