One of the statistics I share with audiences when talking about Tuned In is really starting to get them to sit up in the chairs. Turns out, more than 95% of small businesses fail within five years and more than 91% of new products are withdrawn from the market within 18 months. Nice batting average huh?
In baseball parlance, this is significantly below what has become known as the 'Mendoza Line'. Mario Mendozoa was a professional player for the Pirates in the 70's who famously lasted about 10 years in the big leagues with a career batting average around .200 and actually hit .198 in 1979. It pops up on ESPN every now and then to bring a little laughter into the conversation about someone who is in a slump ... 'Chris Young is in a deep slump and is getting dangerously close to the Mendoza Line'. Not something you want to hear your name associated with.
So how does it feel to live in a world where our averages are below 1 in 10? And that's just for survival because there's another similar small percentage that acutally go on from there to achieve some amount of success or maybe even become hits. Yet, the fundamental reason why this occurs is so basic that it's downright shocking that most of us miss it. Before you even start, did you ever ask the question:
Does anyone care about what it is we do and do we do it better than anyone else?
Seth Godin recently posted on the misperceptions most of us have when we are developing and launching products to market. He says we aim for the 'hit' thinking there is always a fallback to build a successful niche solution if that doesn't work or maybe even drop our offering in with an aggregator who is making money in Chris Anderson 'Long Tail'. We found this in spades in our research. People want to hit home runs by guessing and coming up with something that noone else has ever thought of. Then they introduce it and when noone cares, they start spending more money pushing it into a variety of niches to see if it will stick. Then when noone cares, they try to sell it or abandon the opportunity completely.
How sad really. It's all backwards and it's a lot of hard work to achieve nothing. Why not start with a problem that people care about solving and build a product or service that completely solves it. Here's the really interesting thing we found when we talked to leaders who created breakout successes ... they weren't even trying to hit a home run! Instead, they just focused all of their time and energy on a problem they found that needed to be solved and eventually came up with a solution so compelling that their business took off. It's the opposite of what most of us have been trained to think.
If you want to avoid the pitfalls that 90% of us fall into, start with making sure what you do really matters to someone and that you really, really care about solving a problem for them. If you do, you'll be in the minority of people who enjoy what they do and make a lot of money doing it.