Failure IS an Option

By: Sarah Plasky

I believe you can only be great at something you love. Maya Angelou

A curious thing occurred as I realized I had a calling to the social entrepreneurship uprising.

I decided to leave my job.

I mean who does that?

“Really!” My husband wanted to know, “Who does that?”

The day I walked away from my company with husband on-board to the change, Simon Business School Dean Mark Zupan invited me to dinner.  As we said goodnight he remarked, “It takes such courage to do what you did and to take on the risk of making an idea come to life. I am proud of you.”  Driving home my heart began to race.  “What have I done?”

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint at heart. It is not for someone who likes stable and loathes uneasy.

You have to SEE it. WANT it.

Everyday I crave a new customer like some people crave a cupcake.

Some days there are crumbs only.

Some days it looks like a birthday party platter for a Rockefeller.

Much is made of the success stories.  We love the after-party thrown for the Sir Richards, the Mr. Jobs, the drone-obsessed Bezos.  We like hearing the polished stories of how their successes seamlessly happened.  It sounds very Disney; way too Cinderella much of the time.  My hope is that we can use this new blog to explore the real journey of an entrepreneur together.

Failure is not an option, or is it?

Ode to Susan B. Anthony! Back in 2009 I had the great honor to receive the Susan B. Anthony Promise Award.  I went deep into the history of Susan B. Anthony and enjoyed learning her association with the University of Rochester and especially the stories of her attempts to get women admitted to matriculate there.  Often cited is her famous quote, “failure is not an option.”

And I get her point.  When women’s rights are a stake, she is on point.

However with a start-up failure is not a bad thing.  Not at all.

To be an entrepreneur trying to put a new product or service out there, failure needs to be your new BFF.  Keep her close, inquire where she was yesterday and don’t ever let her go without a proper farewell.

Keep her close

Failure will happen more than you ever believed it could. It is important to see it coming and make course corrections to avoid it.

Inquire where she has been just yesterday

Markets move quickly.  Trends crest into a wave and become the middle of the curve as fast as the ocean reaches the shore. And most importantly, as unique as your idea may be, if it is a good one, someone else is trying it in some form or the other. Who has failed?  What have they failed trying? What could have avoided the failure? Or put it closer and use this for sales learning: Why didn’t they buy it? What could I have done to avoid the loss?

Weigh her value

As the Aquavation founder I participate locally with Nextplex Rochester [] a very hip, growing on-line community that connects IT professionals and entrepreneurs as a start up community. You build a personal profile and inventors may also build company profiles to share details about their intended start-up. There is a most interesting decision point built into their profile tool.   If your start up doesn’t take off and make it, if it ‘fails’ when the Founder goes in to delete that start-up profile a magnificent pop-up window is there to remind you about the importance failure.  In fact, it stops you in your tracks.

Think about that.

Be conscious of failure.  Carry her close in your hip pocket.  Think of her as the person you may want to avoid being seated next to, but when forced, you end up having a most epic of evenings.





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