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Reblogged:Serendipity, 'Failing Faster,' and Advice

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Over the past week someone at Hacker News solicited links to the personal weblogs of the many members of that site, and someone else created a blogroll of all of them -- 1423 as I write this post. The blogroll is quite well done, and has a button that will open a random listing.

A great way to find interesting material is to hit that thing a few times with a finger planted on the control key and scan the tabs. I did that this morning and found a post by Aaron Hartshorn titled "Notes On Owning Your Own Business."

In the spirit of sharing some serendipity, let me recommend reading the whole thing, especially if you own or envision owning your own business. I particularly liked his "loop" model, which he refers to throughout, but explains for the first time as follows:
There is a process, which you need to know about and think about, as you run a small business. It is a loop, which can be divided into four parts:
  • Try something (typically involves spending $$ and/or time)
  • Get results (typically involves receiving $$ or saving time)
  • Observe that result (notice what just happened)
  • Plan your next thing to try
It may seem so simple and straightforward, that there's no point in stating it. But, most business failures can be traced ultimately to one of the following breaks in the loop...
Things get much more interesting quickly, and I'd say that if you've ever heard the advice to fail faster, this is a tutorial on how to do that constructively.

Again, the whole thing is good from beginning to end. I wish my much younger self had heard the opening section, especially this: The most important thing to know, is that being a business owner is NOT like being an employee, except without the boss.

That said, his ending is great, too, in that it addresses the surfeit of advice entrepreneurs get from every direction 24/7:
Image by Tim Mossholder, via Unsplash, license.
... There are absolutely small businesses that actually support their owners, but they are not the majority. So, just because the person talking to you is a business owner, does not actually tell you if they know what they are talking about. They might have been running "in the red" for years, but some other source of money has been making up the difference.


... [E]ven if a lot of people say the same thing, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's correct, unless the people saying it are actually successful business owners.

It may be worth listening to ideas from other people, but the only way to really know if that new idea will work, is to take it around The Loop (see above) once, and Observe the results. Therefore, it needs to not be an idea which, if it doesn't work, will put you into bankruptcy. No matter how many people say that it's a good idea to (for example) spend a lot of money on remodeling your storefront, if it doesn't work, it will be Your Mistake, and no one else will help you to recover. Don't assume that advice, because it is frequently given, is likely to be correct.

And, when you see a lot of other small businesses doing something, and you find yourself wondering "why doesn't that work when I do it?", consider the possibility that it isn't really working when they do it, either.
The author writes based on his experience as an independent contractor and his observations of his wife's experience of running a small retail outlet. The latter also gets in a few words.

-- CAV

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