How successful are you at business failure? Are you willing to throw yourself under the business bus? Yes, you read that correctly. By learning to throw yourself under the bus, and creating its business case, you avoid others doing it for you.
My colleagues from the College of Engineering and the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan were reviewing the Master of Entrepreneurship practicum for this semester. We listed the goals and anticipated outcomes for the program. In our teaching, coaching, and mentoring, we want to throw young entrepreneurs and CEOs of startups under the bus as many times as possible, so that they become robust business people.
That means learning the elements of a successful business case. That means learning to embrace business failure. That means learning to recognize and admit what isn’t working. That means learning to make hard business calls, pivoting or changing direction. Focusing on what will work. That means learning the elements of business failure.
We are all guilty of drinking too much of our own Kool-Aid®. Many sales people, academic researchers, engineers and technical professionals become myopic, overly focusing on a business case, a strategy and topic they feel will be sure-fire winners.
- How many sales people continue to pursue accounts which won’t ever close? Ever. Because they never created a business case for account success.
- How many researchers are too close to their invention to realize it isn’t realistic to commercialize? Because they never considered what factored into a business case for success.
- How many engineers pursue the optimal solution when, in fact, the best solution is less focused and more robust due to its breadth and depth? Because they never considered the business case and perspectives for everyone seated around the business table.
- They are engaged in activities leading to business failure. They could be directing their energy towards creating a solid business case for success.
What does it take to create a successful business case? Willingness to throw yourself under the business bus. Develop that eagle’s eye perspective of trends in the industry vertical, area of research, marketplace, and economic potential of your strategy. Create a consistent and conscientious process to validate your efforts. Otherwise you hear about it at performance reviews or when your funding request is turned down by investors or government agencies. Otherwise you hear about it when you are made to feel like a failure because your business case was weak.
In your mind, you got thrown under the business bus by Them. In reality, you may have been able to avoid this disappointment if you constantly vetted your business case. Why leave You up to Them? Become successful at business failure. Learn by building a business case for each customer, project, objective. Learn how to avoid failing, in the future.
One of the intangibles we don’t realize about successful people is that they gave themselves permission to engage in activities leading to business failure. They created their business case, understood it, refined it, and moved on or moved forward.
Learn to throw yourself under the business bus. Then create a business case about it. Observe and record what is involved in that process. Discuss with trusted advisors, mentors and colleagues. Successful folks give themselves permission for business failure, and they fail frequently. They also are building their success upon the business case of their willingness to fail. They are not risk-averse. They don’t play it safe. They don’t use a safety net.
When you build your business case for success, you learn to detect the habits, strategies, ingrained mindset, processes and practices, earlier and earlier with each of your attempts at business failure. Fairly soon, your business failure mode analysis will be predictive and anticipatory. You will only focus on creating a business case which yields productive and profitable outcomes.
It all starts with your willingness to throw yourself under that business bus. It all starts with your willingness to become a success through serial business failure. It all starts with your developing a business case for business success – not just a business case to avoid failure and play it safe.
What project is going into your first business case?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.