How I Completely Failed At My First Start Up (And What You Can Learn From It)

It was a proud moment. After 6 months of research and a 30 page business plan, I had just released my perfect graduate training site.

Complete from job selection programs, to resume creation, to time management - I knew the second I hit 'publish' and released it to the world, I wasn't going to be able to keep up with the influx of interest. 

I waited... *Refresh*... I waited... 

I was WRONG. 

Ok, I can laugh about it now, but at the time I wasn't so happy. My first start up was a complete failure.

What I didn’t realise is, it wasn’t my business that failed – it was what I was doing about it that failed. Here’s what I should have done about it, and what I hope you can learn from: 

1. Set Your Goals (and make them worthy of passion!)

My biggest problem was from the start - while I had a business plan and all these ideas, I didn't truly have the goal of exactly what I wanted to achieve. That is why when I hit my first failures, I started backing away. If I had burning goals that I could have gone back and engraved in my mind every day, I am sure I would have pushed through. 

Second, even the mini-goals I had weren't exciting enough. After all, I'm not a beetle, so why did I set beetle-sized goals! Make your goals exciting enough that you will push through any adversity. and refer back to them frequently to keep you on track.


2. Get Attention

I had this belief that miraculously, by building this site and pressing the button to release it to the wide world, everyone would magically come. Alas, the internet is not a puppy that will wag its tail and roll at our feet - it's more like a cat and demands you to approach it and win its attention.

Furthermore, my attention attempts were mild - such as a facebook post a week, or even fortnight. 

We are in competition with lots of noise. We're in competition with people's status quo, their daily activity, our competitors, huge amounts of social media.  

I believe it is imperative to take a 'no excuses' policy to making your business a success, and for me that should have meant doing something about the lack of attention, and not backing away and blaming the lack of attention as being the problem.  It isn't people's responsibility to come to us, it is our responsibility to add enough value and get enough attention for them to come.

Keep looking for things you can do every day to make sure you are reaching people. Eg.


  • Walk through your own experience of finding yourself, your site – and your first impressions often and make iterative improvements
  • Use facebook ads
  • Post often on facebook to make it look lively
  • Use open posts with questions, photos, videos which attract engagement from followers
  • Follow key people in your niche on twitter, and follow their followers - many of whom will follow you back. If they are following the people you are in competition with, you've already got a list of semi-interested people!
  • Tweet often, to get attention among all the noise on there


These days I prefer an explosive action approach to getting attention through use of all key free media outlets, with far more posting and activity - including the use of automated social media tools which can post, send auto replies and update people with more consistency.


3. Give To Receive

Another area I struggled with was this - I wanted people to pay for my advice and services, and therefore I 'knew' that giving away my best free things would detract from them wanting to do business with me. I now realise this couldn't be further from the truth. Here are a few ideas I learned: 

3.1. Credibility:Make sure you have plenty of blog, articles or material out there that is freely accessible - so that people can get a feel for your capabilities, building trust and value. Although counter intuitive, you will start to find people actually want to pay once they have enjoyed and 'sucked up' all your free things  

3.2. Education/Pull Based Selling: For those who sell online or physical goods, you can do this too! Let's say you sell party goods. Why not a range of free videos and articles giving 'how to' instructions on setting up the ultimate party - including etiquette, a checklist of things to remember, and other advice. Oh, and it just so happens that when they've watched it, your link goes to a shop which they can then go to and get the items to make it a reality. 

There are plenty of creative ways you can enhance your credibility, knowledge and still get income. Plus, doing these blogs or videos will make you experience what your customers go through to get their end outcome - is your online or physical store experience, and what you sell really in line with what customers need? What did you find you needed to procure to do this 'How-To experience' that you don't currently provide - and could you start selling those.

This is all called "Education Selling" / "Pull based" selling. Instead of hammering your customers with your products, you are selling them an outcome, which simply pulls along your products to help them get there!


4. Execute, execute, execute

The final nail in my coffin was my 6 month business planning session. 

While planning is important at the start, planning is also a procrastination attempt. Come on, you have to admit deep down that every time you get worried about making the leap, or doing more work - you're very comfortable planning and doing e-mail. 

This doesn't bring home the bacon, and it won't give you a sense of accomplishment. The only way to do it is to take specific action toward your goals every day. 

I would have been far better off doing a few days of planning, and 'just starting'. I could have created the first version of the site and then made iterative improvements based on feedback. Instead, I spent all this time delivering the full, big bang 'perfect' output and was demoralised when it didn't work.  

There are so many new sites out there (Google ‘free website builder’) where you can create a site within a few hours and test your idea at no cost before buying the full www. name and linking. 


5. Fail 

Honestly, I learned more from my failure than I would have from succeeding. If your biggest fear is failure, then embrace it for what you will learn! 

You might have all these worries about how your failure will be plastered online, but look at me - I had to write a whole article a year later just to get noticed! 

Don't be afraid to fail as long as you learn. 


6. The Proof Is In The Pudding

Having learned from the above points myself, I can attest to some of the differences in thinking that I now have. This included one of my newest sites which I planned for 2 hours, created a site and facebook for within 4 hours, and had an iterative approach over weeks gradually releasing more and more material. 

This site grew steadily to now have over 1.5 million YouTube views, 5,000 subscribers, 15,000 e-mail subscribers and around the same facebook likes - an definitely not a 30 page business plan!


7. Do It Now 

Why are you reading this article? Are you stuck for ideas, hesitant to make the leap to start your business? Not getting the traction you want with your existing one?

All that I can say is - take the ideas you thought of, and use your energy to get more attention, make no excuses, and ACT NOW. 


Leigh Fletcher is a millennial sales executive, blogger and entrepreneur, with a passion for sales improvement strategies.

Leigh writes practical articles with a focus on leveraging personal experience to help others learn new skills in selling or simply refine existing skills. You can learn more at Leigh-Fletcher.comand like below to keep up with his strategies.