Pen Name Consulting


How to Prevent Business Failure

About one-third of my business focuses on consulting with clients who are trying to either develop new business plans, become more effective at monetization, or desperately seeking a more efficient way to run their business and experience success.

The first two problems are always unique: different individuals and business model lead to unique challenges in creating something new in the marketplace that can be successful. This is a matter of reinventing the wheel, but more importantly, making the wheel better, cheaper, or smarter than what currently exists.

The third problem—the one of efficiency—has always interested me. I recently had the pleasure of working with a client—let’s call him Adam—who had seemingly lost his way with his business.

In the past year, in an effort to become more efficient he started reading books. He covered the 4 Hour Work Week, Crush It, Losing My Virginity (in case you’re wondering it’s by Richard Branson), Good to Great, and How Successful People Think. (Side note: All of these are worth a read.)

I remember this because in our first meeting Adam presented me with a document of everything he’d done in the past year to improve his business. New tactics he had tried separated were separated into different sections, and each strategy was linked to an influencer who had a proven method that would work.

In all, Adam presented a list of 17 different changes he tried to make in the past 365 days.

The ROI: Let’s just say it was shitty.

I examined the situation closely and came to the following conclusion: Too much thinking about what you read.

Process that carefully. The problem is not reading too much or thinking too much. But rather trying to make too many wholesale changes, cherry picking the brilliant ideas of others, while building a Frankenstein business strategy.

The Foundation of Business Failure

These habits—from admittedly smart people—took years to learn and be applied in an effective way. Each on, in isolation, was a skill. Skills take time to learn, and some skills are suited for everyone. And yet Adam was trying to learn and apply all 17 at once.

Not surprisingly, those great techniques didn’t work for Adam and after some examination the reason was clear: A lack of mastery mastery.

Instead of looking forward, we looked back to when Adam was most successful.

It didn’t occur with a new product, a huge investment, or the discovery of a competitive disadvantage. Instead, he realized a simple system that helped his business run more efficiently.

He started having one primary goal each week.

Sure, there were multiple areas of focus, but the business had one main goal and each employee was tasked with a primary objective rather than a multi-tasking mantra.

It became the root of his success, and a strategy that persisted and has continued to be the backbone of his business.

It wasn’t like he made the shift and saw instant changes. He needed to learn how to blend this strategy with the rest of his business and have it carried out by his employees. But within 6 months, it was the business model.

Now, as progress stalled, Adam wondered if he needed an entirely new strategy.

He did need a new approach—and that was a return to his old approach.

Building A Better Business Strategy

So how did Adam take the advice?

I took it well because I am Adam. This was my business problem; one of the many that I have faced, and certainly not the last I plan on tackling.

Good strategies become great when they are mastered, fine-tuned, and perfected. And that process takes more focus than we’d like to admit. There was a time when I was admittedly desperate to see my bottom line increase, so I went into hyper-drive and tried to change 17 things at once.

What I really needed to do was make smaller changes, become good at them, and then test to see if those changes would have made a difference.

When you can’t effectively measure what changes are improving your business you have a problem.

But more importantly, when you can’t institute your changes in a way that become automatic, you have a flawed system. That process of learning and applying a new strategy takes time.

Running your business should be like riding a bike. It should be effortless and never forgotten. But that analogy only works if you train yourself to run a business in a similar fashion to riding your bike—preferably you’ll have fewer falls, but as I said before, there’s no reason to fear failure.

Instead, you just need to learn how to ride. If you tried to learn how to ride a bike, while simultaneously learning how to juggle and take on many other new skills, the likelihood at failure at all increases.

Go slow to go fast. Institute your changes. Make them a part of your life and your business, and then test to see if they work. It’s not flashy or impressive, but it gets the job done.