One More Thought About “Keys to Success”: The 9th Rule

Andrew-Simon2Over the past several months I wrote five blogs around “Eight Things to consider when you are a new venture.” I am now going to add a ninth “thing” to this list based upon a recent assignment we had at Simon Associates.

About a year ago I began working on a new project. Never mind the category because that is not important. But what is important are lessons learned!

We were working on something that I believed was a major breakthrough concept…designed around where we believed the market (in this particular category) was going to be in the next 18 to 36 months. It was unique…a “blue ocean.” But it failed. Not because of technology; the product or service worked fine. It failed because we never really were able to make it easy for potential adapters to add into their distribution channel. And distribution was critical to obtaining acceptance.

So I look back and ask why? What happened? First, I think we were arrogant and assumed that our potential clients would immediately see value and embrace the logic of the offering. That was not necessarily the case. When the “C-suite” or senior person did embrace, there were too many middle managers to slow down the decision-making process.

Years ago I heard about an organization that made decisions by committee. Fourteen could vote yes and one no, and the no would win because the decision required unanimous approval. And that was certainly our experience with this offering.

In our case, we had no advocate to lead the charge. No leader on the client side who was willing to move heaven and earth to make this happen. I wonder what would have happened if Post-its did not have an advocate or WD-40 or even Febreze. Did we fail because of our distribution channel or did we fail because we didn’t believe strongly enough, or was it a combination of both?

So what are the lessons learned? Having a good product and some financing isn’t enough. Life isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t fair. Don’t launch anything unless you are committed to taking it apart and rebuilding it in other ways… Having a strong advocate on the distribution side, [particularly if it is a “blue ocean”) is important. But not being able to shout about it, and to run into walls, will also provide a recipe for failure. Bleeding is part of the game. And if you are not prepared to bleed…well, you know the outcome!