I am going to peel back the curtain and share a humbling story about the lessons I learned “wasting” $65,000 building software that I thought was a good idea, only to wake up and realize it wasn’t a fit with my business goals long term and I had to “quit.” Talk about a moment of feeling like a supreme failure and idiot!
To add salt to the wound, I was mad at myself for letting it get this far when, day in and day out I help my clients think twenty steps ahead and roadmap where they want to go and be sure of it. Yet, like the cobbler’s kid, I couldn’t see clearly. I was trying to read the label from inside the bottle.
If you have ever had an idea that you feel in your gut will change lives and you can’t wait to get it into the wild, this is for you.
I thought I did everything right! I did my research into the Woocommerce industry. I knew there was a need for what we were building out. I knew there was runway, after all woo plugins are a multi-million dollar industry, heck I even went on the hunt to find the mythical unicorn of a technical co-founder, but somewhere along the way I forgot to ask the most important question.
Money aside. Investment aside. Customers aside. Was this a business model that I wanted to be in and grow to be a million dollar business? Was this business model bringing me closer or farther away from the core work I love to do with my clients?
It took me nine months of humbling “failure,” trying to ride two horses with one arse, almost blowing up my team, $65,000 down the drain and a convo over a cup of coffee to realize how far down the rabbit hole I had gone. It was as if someone had taken my blinders off so I could finally see how very much this “new venture” was out of alignment with the Golden Key north star.
Have you ever been there? Gotten so attached to your idea that you are laser-focused and can’t see yourself out of impending doom? Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that every idea is one that is set on a collision course, no, I am saying that you need to be really sure that you are aligned with the long term goals of your business and your life.
It is ironic because I spend 90% of my day helping small businesses scale smartly and avoid the pesky semi-sized pothole that I fell into. But isn’t that always the way? When we are so close to something it is hard to be objective and kill our darlings.
Well, it was that $5 cup of tea I bought a mentor of mine that finally gave me permission to fail and declare time of death.
And you know what is crazy. I didn’t die! The world didn’t end! I wasn’t a failure. I just got a real life, school of hard knocks, education on exactly what not to do next time I get a harebrained idea to build software. Do I kick myself daily for “wasting” $65,000? Um yeah! Though less so as time moves on, but what I have learned to appreciate about this experience comes down to four things.
- I destined myself for failure, for negative thoughts, for imposter syndrome, the day I neglected to have a partner or mentor to walk alongside this process with me. I thought I had a great idea and the right team so surely it couldn’t be that hard, right? WRONG! I am not sure if it was ego, arrogance, or ignorance that I just didn’t know what I didn’t know but having someone as my own sherpa could have saved me hundreds of hours of frustration and definitely tens of thousands of dollars.
- I didn’t have the right team. Sure I had a great PM and two devs, but I was missing the architect. I was missing a person to build a bridge between the vision I saw in my brain and the product I wanted to have built. Sure we did discovery and mapped it all out, that isn’t what I am talking about. I am talking about someone whose zone of genius is translation, knowing how to build steps backwards, and think twenty steps ahead. It is ironic because, again, I do this for my clients quite successfully but let’s get real for a minute, having a global business strategy company is completely different than building software and a SaaS company. Sure there are overlaps, but it was unlike anything I had ever encountered before and I was out of my depth, which leads me to point number three.
- If you are drowning, don’t fake it till you make it! For f*ck sake yell for help and a life raft! Sometimes as entrepreneurs we think asking for help is weakness, after this life lesson I think not asking for help is stupidity. Eventually I did ask for help but at that point it was too late. I had been trying to keep something alive that just wasn’t meant to be and if I had asked for the right help earlier, again, I probably could have saved a lot of time and money, not to mention had less grey hairs!
- Last, but not least, don’t be afraid of failure. I will be honest I have never doubted myself, my qualifications, my existence on the planet more than I did in those nine months. It pushed me out of my comfort zone in more ways than I can count. But the reason I am not huddled in the corner crying over spilled milk is because this process forced me to become a better leader, to communicate better, to be more flexible, to be more open, and to look at failure not as an enemy, but as a friend. We all know that if you are not 50% scared and 50% excited about something at least once a week, you are not growing. And if you are not growing, you are dying, decaying, and going to be left in the dust by other entrepreneurs who are constantly busting through their own BS stories, limitations, failures, etc. So while I hate “wasting” money, I would say that my failure turned out to be quite the lesson in life and in business.
The reason I wanted to share this with you is because I see so often the shiny, rose colored glasses that success and business are viewed through and the fact is, it is not always rosy in entrepreneurship.
There are very high highs, and some pretty soul-crushing lows, but the impact you will have on your customers/clients and your sphere of influence is something that the world needs!
I tell you this story to show you that I too am human. I too f*ck up. I too get things wrong and even though I am a sought after business strategist, sometimes I just can’t help myself until reality slaps me in the face through a good mentor heart to heart.
I hope you can learn from my “mistake” and find a mentor or business sherpa to help you get from A to B without losing your mind, your time, or you a**.