Greg Schott | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Greg Schott

Background:  

MuleSoft is a software company that provides an integration platform that connects SaaS and enterprise applications.

The Mistake:

Not knowing the difference between pivoting, persevering or pounding your head against the wall. We had a product that was very strategic for the company. We believed that it had opportunity to build into a huge market.

We launched and had some initial success, so our confidence and enthusiasm grew. But we were not able to get mainstream adoption. We kept trying to make improvements to the product, doing a micro-pivot into targeting a different customer, changing marketing. But if you’re a smart person and you’ve done your homework, chances are your Plan A is probably your best plan. Plans B and C are Plans B and C for a reason — because you didn’t think that they were as valid.

We kept kind of making these relatively minor pivots within this product, and we got nowhere. So we spent a lot of time and money when we should’ve either made a big pivot or abandoned it altogether.

The only thing worse than failing, is failing slowly.

 

The Lesson:

That is the magic — knowing whether you’re pivoting, persevering or pounding your head against the wall. It’s important to be honest about whether what you’ve done is something that the market really wants. If you can’t get them to kind of buy it at the beginning, you probably don’t have a good product-market fit. And that’s when you just need to say, "This is a fail." But it’s hard because you want to believe that you aren’t wrong. But, sometimes, you are.

Know when to fold and move on. It’s been said before — the only thing worse than failing, is failing slowly. And if you’re not failing fast, you’re not learning. And it really turns into this opportunity cost for the organization.