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5 Failures and Take-Aways From 2011 [A Retrospective]

Last Updated on January 4, 2012  

As we launch into 2012, many of us begin to think about our new year’s resolutions. And, if you’re on my mailing list (subscribe here), I gave some advice a few days ago about how to make sure those resolutions don’t end up in the dustbin of failed ideas.

Looking forward comes naturally. But, what about looking backwards? What about reflecting on the year we’re coming out of and seeing what you can LEARN from it to apply to the upcoming year?

So, I’m going to look back on 2011. And, here’s my take-aways…

#1 – Don’t stop doing what was successful before.

Most of us have done something in the past which worked out REALLY well. Then, we went and enjoyed the fruits of our labors, got comfortable, got lazy, then failed to do it again.

Why NOT do what worked before?

I’ll give you an example from me. One of my most successful actions in the growth of my business was doing a large scale product launch (in this case, of Blog Masters Club). The last large launch I did of it, I added several thousand people to my mailing list and ultimately brought in close to $80,000.

But, I haven’t done it in awhile. Why? Honestly, it is because I dropped the ball.

Now, I have legit reasons for not wanting to do those kinds of launches all the time. When a business depends on things like a launch, then it becomes like crack. You need your next hit otherwise things curl up and die. I don’t want my business in that situation.

That being said, there are aspects of a launch which need to be kept going all the time – EVEN IF you’re not doing an official launch. Things like actively working with affiliates. Being “out there” on other people’s sites. Being preeminent.

So, one of the things I resolve to do in 2012 is be a lot more “out there”. And, maybe throw in a launch or two in the mix. You never know. 😉

#2 – Don’t let your connections go stale.

I have the honor of knowing most of the “players” in this niche. We’ve hung out at conferences and talk on Skype/Facebook and the like.

But, looking back on 2011, I think one of the things I didn’t do well ENOUGH is maintaining those active connections even when I’m not at a conference.

This reminds me of Christian Russel’s “Power Rule of 100” – which he outlined in this guest post he wrote for my blog awhile back. It is the idea that you make 100 personal contacts every day. Whether it be an email to somebody, a Skype chat, a tweet reply – whatever – it is the idea that you make at least 100 contact points every day. I’ve remembered this rule a few times in the last year (good job, Christian!)… because I believe there is a lot of truth in that.

I tend to be more communicative than most when it comes to email (for example, I actually make a point to reply to every reader email I get… even if I’m late)…. but I’ve got friends out there (you know you are) I’m not in contact with enough. I might see them at conferences, or perhaps the occasional Skype interaction… but that’s about it.

Gonna have to do something about that. 🙂

#3 – Be An Executive

Readers of Michael Gerber’s E-Myth Revisited will be familiar with this idea of the 3 roles in a business. There’s the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician. The entrepreneur is the “big picture” guy, the manager oversees day-to-day operations and balances out strategic and tactical plans, and the technician does the nitty-gritty work.

Now, I personally like to call the “entrepreneur” role the “executive” role. I personally think it communicates the idea better.

… but, the idea is that these are three distinct, SEPARATE roles. The executive is like the brain, and the technician is like the limbs of the body.

Now, many of us end up being stuck in the technician role. And, many times in 2011, I’ve found that to be the case with me. I’d find that I felt the most productive when I had fairly brainless work to do…. tasks with an obvious beginning and an end to them. What I didn’t do as well on in 2011 is maintaining my eye on the bigger picture and devising real STRATEGY to do it.

See, to a large extent, I let the “executive” hat drop off my head. And, seeing as the “manager” post is the bridge point, when there isn’t any executive defining broad strategy, the technician works in a rather aimless fashion. Kind of like a body writhes after the head is cut off (yeah, I know… what a fantastic image 😉 )

This is what leads to being BUSY, but not a whole lot of real forward progress.

See, even when we KNOW these things, sometimes the lack of discipline means we do it anyway. Yikes!

So, one of the things I’m doing in 2012 is to actually SCHEDULE time to be in the “executive” role. Work ON the business rather than IN it. A bunch of dropped balls are being picked back up again. And I’m jumping back into the role that I SHOULD have been doing without stopping – EXECUTIVE.

#4 – Take Care of the “Whole Package”

It is REALLY easy for us entrepreneurs to get so into our businesses that it basically defines us. We end up letting other things go.

But, we all have other drives in life. Our health, our family and friends, groups we belong to, etc.

My family took up a lot of my time in 2011. It just goes with the territory. My wife and I have two young children and they need us both. And, generally, I let my family take priority (as I believe it should be). The side effect of that is that – MANY times – I felt like I didn’t have ENOUGH time to actually work. It is the usual tug-of-war that I would imagine most parents have dealt with. 🙂

Problem is… the end result for me was that I let other things go. Namely, my body. No, I don’t have any health problems or anything like that… however I pretty much suck when it comes to exercise and eating well. And I fell into this short-term thinking when it comes to eating. You know, “oh, this one meal of Taco Bell isn’t going to hurt me”. Sound familiar? 🙂 I also started enjoying alcoholic beverages in the evening. But, we’re talking stiff ones. Vodka straight-up. That kind of thing. 🙂 It isn’t every night (by far), but when you combine something like that with not exercising much…

Yeah.

The end result is that I currently weigh about 240 pounds (well, I did as of a few days ago). My ideal weight, given my height, is probably between 190 and 200.

One could say that I let the “executive” role on my health drop off, too. The thing is… as AWESOME as this internet business lifestyle can be… it PLAYS HELL on your health unless you counter-act it.

So, as we move into 2012, I’m beginning to take care of the whole package. What do I mean by that?

Well, business, family, health, groups – ALL of it goes together to form an overall picture of how well we’re doing. And it is all inter-mixed. I FIRMLY believe that you can’t live up to your full potential in business if your body isn’t up to par. And I’ve pretty much decided that I will never see my business to the next level as long as I ignore my body. It just won’t happen.

I’m now on a dedicated program to get into better shape and lose the weight. I’m watching what I eat. I quit the evening drinks. I’m actually tracking it in an app on my iPhone. I’m not a big believer in calorie-counting diets, but that being said, using an app like this forces me to pay attention and be aware of what I’m eating. You can’t manage what you don’t track. Its an old business rule that I think applies equally well to our diets.

#5 – Build For The Future

This final lesson from 2011 goes hand-in-hand with #3 above.

See, one of the important roles of an executive is to build up the business and plan for the long-term viability of the business. In addition to that, the role of the executive is to build that business so that it lends itself to the lifestyle that the owner wants.

Good ol’ lifestyle design. 🙂

When I consider the other things I want in my life, I realize that as long as my business is running like it is now, I won’t be able to do those things. Why? Because my business is still very dependent on ME. It depends on me to do most things. It depends on me to promote things, drive sales, send emails – yada yada.

It is one thing to make money… but when you think about it, TIME is the most important resource we really have. It is the one thing that, no matter how rich you are, you DON’T have more time than somebody else does. We all have the same 24 hours in the day.

So, really, when you think about it… if I’m spending most of the day in my office 5 days a week, what have I really created for myself? I’ve created my own J-O-B. And I won’t have time for other things.

Now, of course, I don’t really compare what I do to a regular job. I don’t have to answer to anybody but myself, and I CAN take time off whenever I feel like it. But, even when I do take time off, I’m still thinking about the business to a degree. And, if I’m going for awhile, I have to attend to some work because… like I said… things still depend on me.

The great part about an online business is that things can be automated, outsourced or systematized to degrees not as easily doable in other lines of work. But, it also takes the EXECUTIVE to purposely build the business in that way.

For example…

  • Making optimum use of autoresponder sequences for automated followup. Less manual emails, but more valuable for people because the campaign have structure to them.
  • Making a point to document internal procedures as I go so that it CAN be done by somebody else.
  • Building up processes and resources for people to promote on your behalf (i.e. affiliates). This combined with some other traffic building techniques (including paid traffic) to build a consistent flow of prospects into the sales funnel… without the need for me personally to continually promote the things to my list manually.
  • Building more passive income streams.

Doing things like this will build a flourishing business that I CAN walk away from (even if only partially) without the stats crashing through the floor.

.

.

So, there we are. These are some of my own personal lessons from 2011.

Comment below with your thoughts. Plus, I’d LOVE to hear about your own personal lessons from 2011.

After all, if we don’t learn from our time and experience, how are we going to make the new year any better than the last?


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  • executive gifts says:

    David, the number 5 is an eye opener. Build for the future! Time is Gold! I just realized that I am aiming to be rich and i am still working on it but I am losing time. I am getting old. Wait a minute. . . . Ok I will go skydiving tomorrow.

    Reply

  • custom items says:

    David, the #4-Take Care of the “Whole Package” is very important. We may be successful in our business but If it will us because of overwork, then it is not worth it. Balance is a great key to success and happiness. Being healthy while having a good business can make everyone in our family happy.

    Reply

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  • John Hoff says:

    Hey David. I’ve come to this post like 3 times and started typing a comment and then never got around to finishing it because I kept saying the same kind of things you mentioned in the post and I was like, “He already knows that”.

    But you know, then I realized that these are very common problems people like us have who work from home. I love my kids and I love working from home, but sometimes it’s very difficult to manage that time / family thing when the kids are so young. Or when you know your wife is thinking, “is he going to be on that computer all day?”

    I think one thing many entrepreneurs miss the mark on is analyzing their assets and liabilities and putting them to good use (or disregarding). I see that you have a webinar coming up. I won’t be able to make it, but if I had to respond to your tweet about what the #1 priority should be, I always say yourself.

    The only way to be successful is through first discovering who you are and what your belief system is, identify those things in your life which are assets and liabilities so that you know what’s in your toolbox (e.g. an asset could be blog archives), and realize that there’s a difference between being “rich” and being “wealthy.” Being wealthy transcends mere money. It includes happiness, money, spiritual well being, friendships, etc.

    Okay I’m going off on a tangent now so I think I’ll end it there LOL.

    Thanks for sharing all this. It is nice to hear that you are human as well 😉

    Reply

  • John E. Bredehoft (Empoprises) says:

    #4 doesn’t just affect the self-employed – it also affects cubicle-dwellers working for multi-nationals. For the past 2+ years I’ve been writing proposals, and for the last year I’ve also been using Runkeeper to keep track of my walking activity. I find that I can keep up with the walking during certain times, but when the proposal deadline approaches, often everything else goes out the window. Since this application (and similar applications) keep track of your exercise, it’s easy to find out where you’re not doing well, which helps you work on better behaviors in the future.

    Reply

  • Susanfrench2010 says:

    One of the most important things that you mentioned, in my never-very-humble opinion, is to notice what you’re doing right and to keep on doing it.

    Being overloaded and scattered is probably one of the worst black holes we can fall into.  Striving for progress over perfection keeps me somewhat sane.

    I love the humanness that you bring into our world through your blog.  It let’s me be OK with being me…lol.

    Susan

    Reply

  • personalised items says:

    David,
    Excellent rules to follow.  I think that most of us would love nothing more than to have a perfect day everyday, which of course is kind of hard to do.  But coming up with rules like yours help keep things in perspective.  My own personal experience for 2011 will have to be not letting the hard times from the previous year bring me down instead of moving forward.  The most important thing for me at the moment is keeping my focus and moving ahead.  I may not have achieved a lot of goals that I initially started on for 2011 but it shouldn’t hinder me in trying until I succeed.  Thanks for sharing your post, it has given me an added perspective.

    Reply

  • custom items says:

    David, I am guilty of making my connections go stale. I am usually not in the mood for a short chat and I fixed this by turning th chat function of my facebook permanently. The problem is whenever I log-in to really chat I noticed that some of my contacts will log-out instantly. Now I even noticed that some of my friends are not attending the parties that I sponsored. Thanks for this post and I should really be thinking on how to be connected with them again.

    Reply

  • Bunnywyatt (a.k.a. Dorothy) says:

    I spent my year Learning–not earning but I didn’t mean for it to be that way. I can also relate to the not taking care of myself. Keeping oneself healthy is another J-O-B, and an important one if we want to do well in 2012. 

    Reply

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