Mistakes can be painful — and costly. Three entrepreneurs talk about how they overcame their biggest goofs.
At the latest installment of F*ckUp Nights Tampa Bay, held Sept. 7 at Cigar City Brewing, three executives shared stories of their biggest screw-ups. The event, the third one held in the Tampa area, featured presentations from Alfred Goldberg, Lisa Brock and Taylor Wallace. Here's a glance at their stories.
Alfred Goldberg, Absolute Mobile Solutions and Tampa Bay Wave
Goldberg says business partnerships, similar to personal relationships, can go sour if both sides aren't on the same page from the start.
Goldberg went through the dating, marriage and newlyweds phase with his partner at Absolute Mobile Solutions. The dating part, he says, when he met his business partner and they created the idea for the company, came “over many shots of tequila and many nights.”
After newlyweds there's the reality phase, sometimes infidelity and then possibly therapy. At the end, there could be divorce. Goldberg and his business partner are currently in the therapy phase. Like many partnerships, it's more than just a business relationship: Goldberg was the best man in his partner's wedding and is also the godfather to his daughter.
“Hopefully we never get to the divorce phase,” he says.
As in a bad relationship, a number of the issues could have been avoided if they had a business prenup, Goldberg says. That means a strong operating agreement that includes things such as buy/sell clauses, rights of refusal, what happens with changes to compensation and more.
“It's very important, even if you are seeing everything eye to eye, to deal with it now...rather than down the road when there is a change in structure or employees at stake,” Goldberg says. “A prenup is good to have because you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow.”
Lisa Brock, Brock Communications
Lisa Brock, 60, started her own company after 17 years in big business working for companies such as Procter and Gamble, Young and Rubicam/Zemp and Anheuser-Busch.
Brock's biggest mistake was a glaring typo in a client brochure. “I had to split part of the bill,” she says. “It cost me $2,300, but at the time, it might as well have been $1 million.”
From that mistake and others, she learned the following lessons:
Take the necessary time: “If you're not detail oriented,” she says, “get those people around you.”
Proof your work: Says Brock: “Make sure you can stand behind it and be proud of it.”
Overcome your fears: Brock admits she's always hated math. But “math causes a lot of problems,” she says. She once had an employee who was taking money from her. “I had to take
the mystique out of doing math,” she says. “In business, you have to do math.”
Words matter: “I don't believe in f-ups, you win or you learn,” Brock says.
Taylor Wallace, WeVue
Taylor Wallace, cofounder of WeVue, a company that makes software to enhance company culture through photo and video sharing, says participating in StartupBus is a great way to learn from mistakes. StartupBus is a weekend-long hackathon where designers, developers and marketers build a company, from developing a product to getting customers. Wallace's StartupBus tips include:
Entry: Go into it for the right reasons because the wrong things will happen. On his first StartupBus trip Wallace was going to build wrongcreditscore.com, to refer people to attorneys if they had faulty credit scores. He thought he was going to make millions. But the night before the big pitch day, his business partner and pitchman had an epileptic seizure, which caused a large void.
Temper expectations: “You need to have some motivation beyond making money,” he says. The following years on StartupBus, Wallace participated just to have fun, and he says he got much more out of the experience.
Go easy: Real problems are insanely complex, while beautiful solutions are stupidly simple, Wallace says he's learned. With the credit score business, Wallace realized he didn't know anything about credit or referring leads to lawyers. A simple solution wasn't there.