Fail fast, get up and try again in a different way was the theme discussed on the Bold Business podcast featuring a guest appearance by Wyseminds’ founder Julie Perkins.
Failing fast is a term used in software development to describe the process of swiftly identifying when something isn’t working in order to make changes.
But it equally applies to the everyday business world where the concept of failure holds far less stigma and shame than it has before. Perhaps the rise of digital that’s required humans to be more ‘agile’ in their approach lies behind this.
For entrepreneurs, failing fast doesn’t mean giving up at the first hurdle. It means understanding and recognising when you’re heading towards the point of getting stuck so you can take a step back to reflect, change and learn.
Failure on the path to high performance business
The podcast topic ‘Steps to Building a High-Performance Business’ heard how the path to success is often intertwined with failures and setbacks but what’s important is to learn from the valuable insights and growth opportunities these bring.
Julie told host Jess Dewell about her own story of getting it wrong at the start, and how it helped her shift the business into a better direction. In her case, she was launching Specsavers in the Netherlands in a very competitive environment.
“Developing high performing teams and high performance mindsets when times were challenging really mattered. I admit I failed to do this at the beginning,” she said.
“In business, what we celebrate is always the starting point. We were a new brand so we were celebrating volumes and how much ground we were establishing. While it was exciting, the underlying problem was eventually that it just didn’t feel that fulfilling. We realised people were only feeling good and connected when it was going well. We had a strong mission and vision but we weren’t leading with it. So very simply, we re-established what it was that we were celebrating.
The company rallied its 1,200 staff members and asked them what they felt the organisation should be celebrating? Sales? Turnover? The company was opening stores across the country and Julie wanted to unify teams behind a central concept to bring them together and create a trusted, safe and consistent environment. By collectively looking at purpose and how each person could contribute to achieving it, she enabled everyone to be a part of the journey which “changed the whole work environment and culture”.
The powerful tool of purpose
Instead of celebrating corporate objectives like sales, profit or number of new stores, they chose “the likelihood of a customer returning in two years’ time” as the measure of their purpose. It was a powerful tool that everyone bought into and shared, while doing their bit towards making that happen simply by turning up for work and doing their job.
By learning from her early failure, Julie was able to forge ahead on a different path that not only helped the business become a success in the Netherlands but beyond too, becoming the global optics company it is today.
“As we learn best from failure and surrounding ourselves with those who know better, it was probably my greatest learning about how to create a more consistent environment when the pressure is huge,” she said.
Change: the only constant
Change is the only constant and the rapid pace of life in the 21st century makes that even more the case. Agility and adaptability are now key skills required for business success, and failure is a surefire way to master them. By learning to adapt swiftly to changing circumstances, you become better equipped to seize opportunities and stay ahead of the game.
But how many times do you need to fail before you get it right? Researchers have tried to measure this and devised the Eighty Five Percent Rule which holds that failing 15 percent of the time and succeeding the rest, is the optimal way to learn something new.
Failure also builds resilience, an essential skill that helps entrepreneurs respond to unexpected challenges and be better able to survive than other businesses. Failure is not the antithesis of success but a crucial part of the journey towards it. Business leaders who embrace it as a teacher and don’t allow it to thwart them are the ones who will rise above adversity and achieve success.