Just as you and your startup needs to learn from failures you should also learn from success. This is not as easy as you think. The vast majority of startup successes are small and subtle incremental steps. The startup that hits upon a instant meteoric rise to fame and fortune is rare. These are the ones we hear about in the news. We can learn from the small incremental successes within our startups, from our competitors and from the well publicised successes of others to build greater success with our businesses.
Startups reach for the stars (Source)
Five sources of learning from success:
- Others successes – Learn from other startup founders, business managers, sports people, etc. Much of where, when and how they succeeded will probably be different from your situation. Success is often anchored to a time and a place. However the fundamental principles of success remain the same. Understand these and use them. These principles are all around us: in books, the Internet, at conferences, etc. Listen and learn from them.
- Successful startups – Where are other startups in your industry succeeding and growing in the current market? Understand their strategy: offering; route to market; and messaging. I’m not necessarily suggesting copying them. Use and adapt their successes to your own startup and target market.
- Investor advice – They are often brutally harsh but also honest. Get out there amongst the investment community. Speak to Angel’s and VC’s. Their opinions are based on experiences of what they’ve seen work successfully. They may tell you your strengths and how you can play on them.
- Successful competitors – What’s working for your direct competition? Find out where they are achieving success and improve on what they do or how they work. This could be their messaging, channel, pricing, etc. If the market is growing fast and big enough you could even simply copy them and share the success.
- Your own successes – Startup successes are often very small and subtle. Listen and look out for them. These small successes need to be connected to a startups overall goal and purpose. In this way they can be built upon, nurtured and grown into much bigger successes. Experiment with new ideas from others and learn from where they work. Jason Fried of 37 Signal fame believes rather than just learning from failure “you should put most of your energy into studying your successes.”
In the classic book Good to Great Jim Collins refers to the flywheel analogy. The flywheel is slow and heavy to start and requires many small pushes. But once moving it has powerful momentum. This idea also applies to startups. Understand the fundamentals of small successes. Build momentum through each successive achievement towards your startups overarching goal. These early successes can easily be forgotten or missed. Look out for them and be persistent. Also be patient and keep focused on moving forward. As Benjamin Disraeli said “The secret of success is constancy of purpose.”