Making Failure Your Friend

By Russ Perry, an EO Arizona member and founder of Design Pickle

As an entrepreneur, it is jokingly said that we suffer from “shiny object syndrome,” where there’s always a great opportunity around the corner and everything is an optimistic path toward achieving the next million dollars. When I had to close my B2B marketing and branding agency in September of 2014, that feeling of optimism shifted toward scarcity and desperation. I was 10 years into my entrepreneurial journey, unemployed with zero savings and had no back-up plan to support me.

With nowhere to turn, I decided to invest my time in coaching. I didn’t want to make a rash decision for a short-term paycheck, and I figured coaching would give me a sounding board that could help me during my transition. Around this time, I joined another entrepreneurial group called The Dynamite Circle, and through their blog, I was introduced to Taylor Pearson, a coach and writer who is both thoughtful and analytical— exactly what I needed. He introduced me to a concept called a “decision filter,” which I would go on to use as a compass for my business and life.

This decision filter would be the outcome of a homework assignment consisting of two parts: First, I had to describe where I needed to be in three years, personally and professionally. But there was a catch: I had to stay away from picking a specific business category. That was the point of the exercise. Second, using those outcomes, I had to decide what factors my future business needed to have in order to make my goals a reality. For example, I knew I wanted to spend summers traveling with my family, so one of my factors became a location-independent business model. I couldn’t own a business that required me to be in an office every day. My other factors were: matches my background and experience; is a niche area that allows me to be an expert; has a prospective market and monthly recurring revenue; and is easily explained to prospective customers.

All of these factors were tied to my core values. If an idea didn’t include these tenants, it wasn’t a good fit. I can’t begin to describe the huge release of anxiety I felt after making decisions through this new approach. Almost immediately, I had the clarity I needed to move in the right direction, and when I looked back at all of the short-term opportunities I was offered, none of them passed my decision filter. With my new mindset, I took on several consulting jobs and waited for the right idea to present itself, which it finally did in December of that year. By January, I had launched Design Pickle. In the first week, we went from zero to US$6,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR) in sales, and as of our first anniversary, we’ve surpassed US$100,000 MRR. I couldn’t be more proud.

I think the most empowering thing about this whole process was that I made these important decisions for myself. Taylor facilitated the process, and I had the support of my friends and family along the way, but in the end, I was the one to choose the business proposition that was best for me and my family. Early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I sought external validation far too many times, rather than looking inside myself when I needed answers. It wasn’t until I jumped in and fully trusted my instincts that I realized just how strong failure can make you. In fact, failure turned out to be my best beginning. Now I’m using this experience as a building block for bigger and better things.

Russ Perry (pictured) is an EO Arizona member and founder of Design Pickle, an unlimited and flat-rate graphic design service. Contact Russ at [email protected].

Categories: Coaching Entrepreneurial Journey Inspirational members


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