Reagan Hales

Entrepreneurial Initiative, Making A Market, Failure And Eventual Success

The Amarillo community is brimming with generous volunteers, influential leaders and successful businesspeople. The people of Amarillo are what make our city unlike any other. With the AEDC guest blog posts, we hope to educate readers on our community as well as share valuable messages from Amarillo's key thinkers. This is a guest post by Aaron Sage, CEO of Sage Oil Vac and co-owner of Femco Drain Solutions.

As an entrepreneur and business owner, my fingers quiver even at the thought of typing out the word, f-a-i-l-u-r-e. The word failure conjures thoughts of final, fatal, tragic. The end of a brave fight of a failed business. However, I must remind myself, failure is not always catastrophic. Small failures from calculated risks show you the right way. To get past the negativity of the word failure, the word setback will be used from here on out.

Aaron-Sage-AEDC-Guest-Blog2.jpgAs an entrepreneur, what calculated risks and small setbacks are you experiencing that are getting you closer to success? Inspirational quotes and ideas on successful people and their setbacks are well-documented, posted all over LinkedIn and Facebook. Google “inspirational quotes on failure.” Out of the 1,900,000 results, one of the first is a Forbes article with 30 famous quotes from some of the greatest leaders: Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill and Henry Ford, to name a few. 

When reading these, you realize the “setbacks” these greats faced were only trials and tribulations on their road to incredible success. We do not remember these greats not succeeding. We know them for their successes. These are well-documented.

Besides reading a LinkedIn motivational poster, what can we learn from the countless setbacks experienced by these great people on our entrepreneurial journey?  

Understanding Entrepreneurial Initiative

What is the relationship between setbacks and entrepreneurial initiative in the workplace? Can you sustain workplace initiative without setbacks? I say, “No.” Workplace initiatives will experience setbacks. Can you fail without the power of initiative? Yes, that’s a given. You don’t have a business without initiative.    

I once worked for a large, multinational firm, known for developing entrepreneurial business managers. This company had 50,000 worldwide employees at the time I worked for them. Within the first few pages of the company handbook, in great, bold letters read, “Error in execution is more serious than error in judgement."

I asked my manager to explain that one to me. He said, “You had better make a good plan, and execute the plan, even if it’s the wrong decision.” I asked, “What do you want me to make a plan on?” He replied, “That’s for you to tell me.”

Essentially, it’s better to learn from your mistakes through initiative. This company certainly had young managers experiencing setbacks from well-executed calculated risks. So if sometimes it was the wrong decision, at least now they know. They knew it would develop better managers.

For business, sustained entrepreneurial initiative must come from the owner, and consequently, engrained in the culture of the team.

Make a Market – Embracing Fear of Setbacks

“Making a market.”  I’m not talking about the investment definition, referring to the trading of stocks and bonds. For purposes here, “making a market,” refers to business ventures that create a market niche for your product or service. This is also referred to as “carving out your market niche.”

sage-oil-vac.jpgInitiative is the only way to “make a market” for a product or service. To have entrepreneurial initiative, we have to embrace the inevitable setback. We must not fear the possibility of it; rather, we must make a good plan, execute it, learn from the setback and continue making our market.

Let’s use an example of an entrepreneur creating a sales and marketing plan for a niche product or service. By definition, your niche product or service, isn’t going to have market data for it. Niche Market – subset of a larger market, specific, small market segment, etc.

Therefore, where do you go for market information for your product or service? Market information on your category will be sparse. The entrepreneur cannot stop here. There is no data, no information that can guarantee the success of the sales and marketing plan beyond doubt. Doing nothing is not an option. There will be no “making of a market” with no action.

The only way to overcome the lack of data to build out the sales and marketing plan is to initiate a thorough and well thought out plan to discover data, and execute it. And learn from the setbacks along the way.  

Entrepreneur’s Vision and Eventual Success

As entrepreneurs, we set out to realize our vision. We want to capitalize on that market niche. In some cases the vision is to go beyond the market niche, and create a market with demographics in which your product or service is no longer a niche, but the standard for the rest of the industry.

Either way, do not be paralyzed by the fear of the setback. Embrace the setback. It’s the good kind of setback that will lead to long-term success.  

Aaron Sage is the CEO of the family-owned and operated Sage Oil Vac, a winner of the WT EnterPrize Challenge, as well as the co-owner of Femco Drain Solutions. Aaron's father, Gary, founded Sage Oil Vac in 1993. Connect with Aaron on LinkedIn.

Image courtesy of Sage Oil Vac

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Interested in contributing to the AEDC blog? Email Marketing & Communications Director, Reagan Hales.