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How to Fail Before You Open

Some small start ups tend to fail before they even begin to conduct business. This article not only explains why, but how to start an successful endeavor.

"The successful person makes a habit of doing what the failing person doesn't like to do." - Thomas Edison

It is often failure, pain, anguish, financial loss, or some other form of pessimistic misfortune that tends to help some entrepreneurs learn that a great idea, founded upon nothing, will fail!  Over a course of five years, I witnessed the opening and closing of two great business ventures piloted by myself.  It was not until two years ago that I sought to assess those failed ventures and distinctly pin point how the business failed, when it saw its demise, who created this downward spiral and what could have been done differently to secure a successful future endeavor.  The answers to those questions were quite simple but the key inquisition that needed to be answered was WHEN.  After months of debate within myself, I came to the conclusion that the business failed prior to opening the door to work with prospective clients in need of the services we provided.

The keys to a successful business is not always embedded in adjectives like dedication, hard work, skill or even knowledge.  Yet, those attributes tend to engage in the success of your endeavor.  A start-up companies entrepreneurial misfortune tends to begin when the business persons are engaging clients and customers prior to laying down the foundation for their own entity.  Based on my experience with failing endeavors and now with a growing firm engaging successfully with clientele in various markets, I found that a lack of purpose, direction and corporate allocation was missing.  These fundamental items can serve as defining or a defeating constructs.

So how does one secure a successful endeavor?  Simple.  Like writing any good newspaper article, your foundation elements should lay in 3 of the 5 W's.

  1. Why?
    Why are you starting this business?  The answer to this question should be apparent and to clarify your intentions.  Figuring this out can be clear in the drafting of a business model.  This model allows you to delineate the clear purpose of your company.  Whether it be financial, philanthropic, fun, etc.  A business model can be the defining document for your companies operation.  You will find yourself asking frequently, "does this align with our business model"?
    Link to explanation of Business Model:
  2. What?
    What services will you provide?  What software will be use? What defines our success or failure?  The "what's" allow your business to clearly define how it will function.  The answer to the what question can be clearly expound in a business plan.  The plan is a formal statement that allows you to set organizational goals, define products and services, and more.  It is also equally important to explain what your goals and aspirations are for your company as well as provide a clear mission statement for your organization.
    Link to explanation of Business Plan (
    Need help writing a plan? The Minority Business Development Agency has a step by step tutorial guide to help (
  3. Who?
    Answering the question of who, allows you to define aspects of both your business and your prospective customers.  Who is your target audience?  Who will you partner with?  Who will you employ?  Who will produce your idea and/or services?

Additional, the answer to this question should assist with creating lucidity amongst not only your customers, but amongst your staff and prospective investors.  How?  How will you do it? how will you gauge success or failure?  How will you find talent to set your plan in motion?  How will you monetize or gain financial success?

Drafting the foundational documents that will serve as the driving force behind your business could provide the direction that is needed in order to mobilize a successful entrepreneurial experience.


Milton Jackson is the Owner and Lead Project Manager at the Blok Creative Design Agency (  He is also an academic instructor at Eastern Connecticut State University.