Want To Grow As An Entrepreneur? Science Says Fail First
This story was contributed to Forbes.com by Brian Scudamore.
When it comes to entrepreneurship, there are no clear cuts. It’s a densely forested landscape with a million possible paths leading to one of two places: success or failure. The key is being ready and able to adapt - to adjust your course and to learn from your mistakes as you make them. After all, studies show that the entrepreneurs who innovate in the face of failure are the ones who find success, in the end.
That’s what happened when we launched our home-detailing company, Shack Shine. We defaulted to familiar systems that brought great success to our other brands like 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, but we quickly came up against some unexpected obstacles and had to pivot.
Two years in, we’ve retraced our steps, made a few switchbacks, and blazed some new trails to get our youngest brand where it needs to be.
A Turn Here...
Shack Shine is (literally) a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-dirty opportunity, so success as a business owner depends upon your attitude towards hard work. That’s why we awarded most of our franchises to hungry, young millennials who were happy to invest sweat equity and energy.
As we interviewed our candidates, though, we kept running into the same problem: many millennials are cash-poor with little to no access to starting capital. They’re often fresh out of post-secondary and neck-deep in debt, which presents a barrier to entry to our system and makes it harder for them to grow once they’re up and running.
We realized we needed to restructure aspects of our business model to make our system more accessible for our target demographic. We veered massively off course to pilot something new: subscription services.
With a subscription model, customers pay upfront for a whole year of services, giving our franchise partners money to invest back into their businesses. It’s a way of getting a healthy cash flow right off the bat and it works well in any industry — subscription commerce generated $5 billion in 2014 and subscribers spend 2.7 times more annually than average shoppers. The beauty of recurring billing is that both the customer and the company get value: the business can more accurately predict annual revenue and the customer has more control over budgeting their expenses.
For our other brands, this wouldn’t have worked — junk hauling, painting, and moving are usually one-off jobs, spaced out over months or years. But we’re piloting subscription for Shack Shine because in the spring and fall, we clean gutters. In the summer, we wash windows. Other services (like power washing and interior window washing) can be done anytime. This gives customers year-long house detailing at one single cost and the freedom to schedule services as needed.
Turning away from our tried-and-tested business model has been both stressful and thrilling. But luckily, our millennial franchise partners are quick to cope with new ideas and fast changes. With teamwork, we’re maneuvering through rough terrain and getting everyone back on track for success.
A Switchback There...
And then we hit another roadblock. When we targeted millennials to be the backbone of our brand, we assumed they wanted total freedom and flexibility to run their businesses — because that’s what our franchise partners within our other brands want (and it’s what makes them so successful). So we mimicked our other brands, providing partners with weeks of in-depth operational training before sending them to launch.
But most of our franchise partners have only a little business experience to fall back on, especially in a leadership role; they aren’t used to juggling operations and bookkeeping with appointments and managing a team. It wasn’t that they couldn’t do it all — it was that they wanted on-the-ground guidance until they were truly confident.
To ease the transition from theory to practice, we deployed field team members to assist with every franchise launch from day one. Getting involved in our partners’ day-to-day business goes against the EntryPreneurship model. But in the case of Shack Shine, we had to adapt. Our young franchise partners wanted more support in their early days — so that’s what we gave them.
Clear Roads Ahead
Entrepreneurship can be a rocky road and finding your footing can take time. Shack Shine has been a lesson in agility and quick thinking: we learned to pivot away from initial plans, be quick on our feet, and take the road less traveled. Sometimes, taking a few steps back is the only way to move forward.