For some, failure can mean the end of the road on some activity, venture or goal. But that is only true if you give up and just stop. For me—and for many others like me—failure in some area can act as a valuable learning experience that further enables success. This new series of blogs illustrates, with my own experience and observation, how learning from failure is possible.
Many places you look today, you see examples of the demand for instant gratification. People want things without taking the time to cultivate them. They want the payoff without having to build anything first. They want to grow things fast so they can get the results now, now, now.
A prime example is today’s industrial agriculture: corn, tomatoes and other crops are grown in record time, to big sizes. Nutrition and flavor quality come in a distant second to getting the crops fully grown, picked, and to market in record time.
If you go and buy a tomato in the supermarket today, you’ll notice that its flavor is pretty bland. Now go to a farmer’s market and purchase an organically grown heirloom tomato—and the difference in flavor will astound you. You’ll most likely exclaim, “That’s what a tomato should taste like!” You’ll also find, if you analyze them, that they’re far more nutritious than average supermarket tomatoes. But they took longer to grow, and they’re certainly not as big as some of their industrial counterparts.
Lessons from Nature
How fast do things naturally grow? Have you ever seen a child instantly grow up? Or an animal, or even a plant?
Right at this moment my family is getting a dog. The breeder gave us very explicit instructions to only feed the puppy the diet prescribed by the breeder, otherwise the dog will grow too fast and it won’t have healthy bones.
The very universe in which we live took billions of years. The petroleum that we so carelessly take from the ground and use up, took millions of years to arrive in its current state.
No…these things take time. And it’s a lesson we should learn well.
In Economy as In Nature
When we move out of nature and into business and economy, we learn the same lesson. We see now, especially with VC-funded startups, people thinking that if you throw enough money at something, it will grow.
It’s a total falsehood. All the money in the world won’t substitute for proper staff training and putting the proper infrastructure in place. Without such actions, even with endless funding an organization will collapse.
It’s very much the same as nature: things grown too fast have weak points. Just as the dog grown too fast will not have healthy bones, a company grown too fast won’t have a healthy structure.
My Own Sales Team Lesson
I’ve certainly learned this lesson firsthand. When I brought my company to America from Austria, I was strongly advised that since the company was now online, leads were being created in countries all over the world. I should have sales reps in those countries to follow them up. I immediately hired salaried salespeople in four countries where we were getting the most leads.
Over the next 6 months, we made few to no sales in those countries—certainly not nearly enough business to justify the cost of paying the reps.
Fortunately we realized our mistake before too long, and put those reps on commission only. But where did we really go wrong?
First, I assumed that the reps we were bringing on were entrepreneurial, and would forge a market for themselves in their territories. But it turned out that they were not, and were also not self-responsible enough to figure out what they needed to do and get going.
But the real problem was this: we hadn’t yet figured out what it took to bring a salesperson onboard for our product and company. We hadn’t figured it out for the US locally, let alone for foreign markets remotely. Therefore we didn’t know how to manage even a local rep. How could we then manage a rep thousands or even tens of thousands of miles away? It was the missing infrastructure we talked about above.
Now we know. Once we fully figure out onboarding for ourselves here in America, and have really made it work, then it makes sense to move out into other countries. We’ve only now arrived at the point where sales is really working here, and can now do that.
Of course in business we want to do things as fast as possible—that has always been true and will always be true.
But no matter how “fast” you go, you must take the time to do it right. As tempting as it is, growing too fast is dangerous. You only have so many hours in a day, and so many personnel. The work needs to actually be done, and the personnel need care, training and mentoring.
Lesson learned: Grow at the speed that makes the most sense for your company, and ensure your infrastructure is there before you try and go global!
For more on growing and managing a sales team, download our free ebook The Vital Essentials of Building a Sales Team.
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