Dream Often, Think Big, Test Small, Fail Fast

It amazes me how often I see businesses think big without a test or backup plan to see if what they are trying can work. Or, how often I see people fail and stay with the failing plan for what seems like forever? Why?   

Most great ideas at the very least need adjustments. And, usually those adjustments need to be thought of sooner rather than later.

I love the big idea. Also, I like the idea of testing to work out the kinks. You can’t be afraid to fold up the tent, realize that something just didn’t work and move on to the next one.

It happens with relationships, new business ideas…everything! How often have you hired someone you knew early on that wouldn’t work out, but you held onto them for way too long before firing them or they quit? How much effort did you put into that one, big, costly project when you could have been smarter about where you invested your money or time?

I was thinking about a time when I was first starting out in my career as a management trainee at the Baltimore Grand Hyatt Hotel in the coffee shop. I was doing everything to raise the check average so I could get promoted (Waking up at 5:30am was not really my thing at age 22).

I decided to make a wine display to get people to drink wine at lunch. It was awesome. It had nice wine glasses, grapes, and white wine on ice. There was no way that anyone walking in at lunch would not order a glass of wine.

As people walked in, I would give tastings and people loved it…I thought I was well on my to selling multiple cases of wine ever week.

But, here’s the thing: it took me 20 minutes everyday just to set it up, I had to push servers to sell wine in pre-meal meetings and taught them all about it. The end result? Nothing.

It was a horrible feeling. Showing up to work at 5:30 in the morning can do a lot of things to a 22-year-old and when you aren’t selling what you need to get to another level there’s just one word that can describe the feeling: misery.

After a few weeks of no movement on the average check increase or a promotion, I tried something new. I didn’t dwell on the lack of success with the wine. I thought, “What else can I do?” So, I moved on to breakfast.

What could I get servers to sell more? What could I display? I would watch the servers walk around and always ask people if they wanted coffee. I noticed they had a free hand. From then on, I had them carry both a pitcher of coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

If you are trying to upsell, “Would you like coffee or orange juice?” is a much better question than, “Would you like some coffee?”

Pretty soon the average check increased through the roof. We replaced the wine display with fresh-squeeze orange juice and oranges and I got my promotion, my servers got increases in their tips and my career was on its way.

What’s the moral? Life is most definitely not about having regrets. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failing isn’t the opposite of success; it’s a part of success. Usually your first idea is not your best idea. Be patient, test things out and don’t be afraid to walk away when the results you of what you tested did show that something didn’t work out. The key is to be strategic about the moves you make.

Over the course of time what you will see is when you go through the process of continuously learning from your mistakes, coming up with something new and testing that next big idea, the success will be greater than you could have ever imagined previously.



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