Recently, I have had several interactions with clients about their collection/design product successes and failures, and I will share a few points that are important to any business; and especially in fashion. How should a company address success and failure, hits and misses?
Operating a business is tough, and small businesses have been dodging legislative challenges, economic and social shifts and changes, stiff competition, and financial squeezes from all sides. All of these factors create road blocks while creative individuals are working diligently behind the scenes on trying to create the product of the future. Small businesses successfully navigate these challenges daily, without the support of corporate level infrastructure or seemingly unlimited deep pockets. When a large company fails it becomes a black eye or a blemish on their record, often, they fire a few people and move on to the next. In contrast, when a small business fails it can be detrimental to the business and often ending it altogether.
Fortunately, most small business owners plan for failure, and the most successful businesses developed a business plan to walk them through their "what-if" scenarios when things go wrong in business. Unfortunately, the percentages for completing a business plan in the fashion industry is much smaller in comparison to other company types. This is a result of a lack of business classes worked into fashion programs and the idea that anyone can call themselves a fashion designer. These issues create a recipe for disaster in combination to the other hundreds of hurdles thrown at entrepreneurs. Savvy entrepreneurs will figure out a way to navigate in this space and others close their doors. Which one are you? Which would you want to be? I hope you are already working towards a plan on getting there!
I work with small businesses daily and I see and feel the impacts of their successes and failures and there are two that I want to highlight for addressing failure and success in amazing ways. We can all learn from their willingness to address and handle their future with grace and distinction. One individual worked on developing a prototype for a garment and after a year long process finally decided to pull the plug. In clear and simple terms they stated that the idea failed and they were moving on to the next. Clearly, disappointment is a part of product development as you make a million mistakes before hitting that perfect blend to achieve your goal, but when you let disappointment rule your outcomes, it becomes difficult to see during dark times. This person took the position, it's okay to fail on this and it is only making my conviction stronger in finding the next idea that I can work towards finding a path to success. This message is invaluable. What is your failure strategy?
You should never be ashamed of not reaching success on every design, every collection, every detail. You shouldn't hide failures from the public. Own it, embrace it, and use it to hone your creativity and drive towards your next creative vision. This person will likely achieve success as they are willing to work the process beginning to end, and let go at an appropriate moment regardless of their personal desire to see it come to fruition. In business, sometime you have to cut your losses and move on and this is much easier said than done.
Handling success can be just as tricky to navigate. I have seen company after company publicly blast their successes in various spaces and differing degrees, and most often, always having to reel themselves back to reality as they though they found a golden goose only to find a golden egg. That short lived success wasn't handled well and in turn created far more issues than they though could have happened. Accepting a failure off the back of a huge success is always a difficult pill, but if you properly manage your responses to success, your can also manage your response to failure at equal measure. This allows for brand consistence and provides the human connections that consumers desire without being "that" annoying brand at moments of success. Consumers do not like brands that seem disingenuous and when the market perceives a company in this manner, it can be a long and expensive uphill battle to recreate the brand image.
One example is a company achieved a success point in which they were elated about, but they knew they were going to fall off that high point once everything was said and done. They created a way to manage how to address that "success" both within their brand and the external message. This message was put into perspective of the milestones of the company. Ultimately, this company downplayed one success to align successes and failures equally. This allowed them to capitalize on the overall message of steady, consistent growth over a specific time frame. Needless to say, their plan was a success on managing their success. This plan put them in the category for being a long term contender in their niche market and they continue to flourish today. So what is your success strategy?
Establish a plan before success and before failure to help manage these events and this will help guide your brand to success. Be humble and gracious in both events, consumers are watching and in turn, they are responding. Embrace failure equally to success. Fails and misses are a part of the process and when possible fail up! I wish everyone would understand and apply these ideals to their own businesses and philosophies as they are rewarding to everyone ithat a brand is connected to.