As you build your business, you will encounter many possible modes of failure: customer failure, technology failure, product failure, team failure, and more. And just when you’ve dealt with one failure mode—another is waiting for you around the corner.

But failure doesn’t have to be fatal

You should be prepared to tolerate small failures along the path to big success. Through these small failures, you—and the people who work for and with you—learn valuable lessons that can be applied to the products and services you build and deliver.

Below are strategies and coaching reminders for navigating your way through failure and finding the success you have worked so hard to achieve.

The Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins with One Step

When you’re building a business, you need to have a clear vision of your destination and the determination and personal fortitude to make the journey. The journey will be long, and you can’t—nor should you even try to—plan every step along the way. Ultimately, the most important step you’ll take is the very first.

As you prepare to take that first step, ask questions like…

  • How am I going to put together my initial team?
  • What is the minimum viable product going to look like?
  • How am I going to land the first customers for my business?
  • How am I going to get the first million in revenue?

Again, you shouldn’t try to plan every step along the way and should not expect perfection. Remember, perfection is the enemy of done. Too much planning and too much perfection will only slow you down as you build your business. In a hypercompetitive environment, you can’t afford to delay. Start by taking your first step and iterate as you learn valuable lessons along the way.

Everything Is Great All the Time

Many founders are guilty of wearing rose-colored glasses—the opportunity is great, your founding team is great, your product is great, etc. The reality is that not everything in your business is going to be great all the time. And the more intellectually honest you are in your assessment of where your business really is, the sooner you’ll be able to deal with the sources of failure that are embedded within it. Believe me, there are always going to be some.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t be optimistic about your business’s present and future state—if you’re not a true believer in your business’s vision, then you have the wrong vision and perhaps the wrong business. If you spend more time managing perceptions than building your business, you’re surely going down the wrong path.

The Lack of Speed Kills

As Next47 General Partner T.J. Rylander says, a lack of speed kills in business building. Ultimately, speed is about building and testing hypotheses around your ideas and then learning from the results. This rapid feedback loop fuels innovation—you’re charting new territory, so agility is key. Embrace the iterative process by translating ideas into action, gathering results, and refining your approach based on your learnings. Test, learn, adapt.

And this approach doesn’t just apply to your ideas for new products and services. It also applies to the different lenses you use to view an opportunity, which allows you to anticipate failure. By quickly applying these lenses, you’ll be able to detect possible sources of failure much faster. Once you detect failure, quickly decide how to address it, whether that means trying a different approach or discarding an opportunity and moving on to the next.

Use Data to Understand, Not Justify

Every smart founder uses data as a powerful tool for building their business. Almost every founder is also a talented storyteller; telling inspiring stories about where the business will go is a key skill. From my perspective, however, there are two choices regarding data and stories. You can either have a story and use the data to tell it or take a close look at the data and allow the story to emerge organically from it.

Let’s say you introduce a new product and have some moderate success with it. You might look at the data and create a story that the product is a success; that is, until sales tail off and revenues drop. If you instead ask the question, “Why wasn’t our product launch as successful as we thought it would be?” and then take a really deep dive into the data, you’ll likely find that the initial story of product success was wrong. There is a mismatch between what you’re offering and what your customers want.

Use data to understand, not justify, and you’ll quickly overcome the small failures and start delivering the products and services your customers need.

Don’t Believe in Magic

When you’re in hypergrowth, it’s easy to believe in magic—that you can hire anyone, throw them into a job, and they will quickly make the leap from knowing nothing to becoming highly skilled at whatever they’re responsible for. This is a huge mistake. Never hire people for jobs when they’re inexperienced and in learning mode. Instead, hiring the best, most experienced person for every role is up to you. Every new hire should elevate the team and the organization.

It takes more than a lone genius or founding team to scale a business. You have to build a team of extraordinary people. Don’t hire clones of yourself, there’s already one of you in the organization. By hiring world-class individuals with diverse expertise, experience, and knowledge, you’re setting up your company for success, and I promise you it will look like magic when you succeed.

Before You Go

As a founder or executive, you are uniquely positioned to bring new businesses and products to life. As you take this journey, you’ll have the opportunity to bring your team, customers, investors, and others along with you. You can create a great organization together by building products people love and delivering the future. It’s a remarkable position for anyone, and I hope you avoid failure and find all the success in the world. Put these principles to work in your organization, and I’m certain you will.