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Fail Fast: One advantage small businesses have over larger competitors

List reader Brian had a thought in response to Wednesday's letter about failure in business (shared with permission):

"A very popular keyword in startup culture is 'fail fast'. It can be applied in almost all situations and it works at any business level, high or low."

"Failing fast" is something that I try to incorporate in my business as often as I can.

For example, I love making websites, but I don't love talking about budget with clients. If I could make websites for free I would, but I've got bills to pay, so talking money is a necessity.

Several years ago I use to save the money conversation for the last possible moment. I'd spend hours meeting with a client, researching their business and writing a 9 page proposal. Then, at the end of the proposal I'd give them a quote, only to find out that their budget isn't even close to possible.

5-6 hours down the drain and no new project.

With the "fail fast" mindset, I now ask about budget as part of my new project contact form on my website – I'll know if someone has a budget I can work with before I even speak with them on the phone.

If something isn't going to work, it's best to have it fail as soon as possible, with minimal loss of time or money.

I've bet you've heard about Thomas Edison's failures. He wasn't the only person experimenting with the incandescent light bulb, but he was the only one willing to fail with 6,000 different filaments (including one made from the beard hair of one of his men) before finally finding the one that would work.

And one more famous entrepreneur who likes to fail fast:

"If you're not making mistakes, you're not taking risks, and that means you're not going anywhere. The key is to make mistakes faster than the competition, so you have more changes to learn and win." - John W. Holt, Jr., Xochi Manufacturing

The Takeaway: Fail fast, move fast. Failing fast is one of the advantages small businesses have over larger competitors. Embrace failure and make it a part of your business.

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