Failure can pave the road to success

Dave Younge, Flex-Ability Concepts

How do you measure success in your business? Is it measured by sales? Customer satisfaction? Overall growth? Or, could your success be measured by your failure?

I believe the road map to success is often paved by failure if you learn from the experience. So you either succeed or learn. There is no such thing as failure. Throughout my life I have had many, many opportunities to learn.

Flex-Ability Concepts began with a simple idea, the first of its kind for a flexible framing product. The original plan was to get a patent and license the idea. We had no knowledge of how to manufacturer it or sell it. We filed our first patent in 1995 and received it four years later.

Since we were now patent pending, we built a prototype to show potential companies that could license the idea. Looking back now I can’t believe we showed it to people because it looked terrible. The response from those companies was “We do not understand how to make this and do not think it will sell.”

We searched out distributors, and they said the product would be too expensive to sell and turned us down. That meant we either had to make the product ourselves and take it to market or abandon the idea. We were broke. We were discouraged, and at this point three of the partners dropped out and wanted their money back.

With nowhere else to turn, we went to the actual users of the product, the framing contractors. The framing contractors were in awe of our product. Unlike everyone else we approached, they said they would buy it and use it. We learned you must talk to the actual user. That is how you know if you have a potential product.

Now we had to figure out how to make it. There was a lot of trial and error. In the beginning, if we were charging for our own labor, it cost more to make than our sales price. But we took a chance and went to a trade show. We were overwhelmed. For three days our booth was jammed. It seemed everyone wanted it.

Each road block and each failure gave us the option to give up or find another way. Our entire business is built on innovation and the desire to learn and find another way. We ended up with success we could not have imagined. I made a projection that we would do about $350,000 a year. We begin selling the product in May 1998 and ended up at $750,000 that year. In 1999, we did $1.5 million.

Your failure can pave the road to success if you learn from it. What setbacks have you encountered this year? How can you learn so those setbacks can have a positive effect on your business? Often, these setbacks or failures are disappointing initially, but they encourage us to think differently. When we think in such a way, growth happens to our company and growth happens to us.

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