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This is the ideal of the experimental attitude, which is also emphasized throughout this book. Building a business today is a never-ending process of trying something, learning, and trying more—on the basis of what you have learned. Within this context, mistake is just another word for something you have learned not to do again. In the corporate world, a mistake may be a cardinal sin. At minimum, you probably have to convince someone above you in the corporate hierarchy that despite the mistake, your performance is still terrific. When you are a solo entrepreneur, that kind of thinking is irrelevant. In fact, the reverse is true: You must make mistakes because they are an inevitable part of the process of learning what works.

The key to making “good” mistakes is to limit your downside risk. You want to experiment, and then experiment some more, so that your mistakes have consequences that are as limited as possible.


Sydney Finkelstein’s Why Smart Executives Fail and What You Can Learn from Their Mistakes focused principally on large firms, but many of Finkelstein’s findings are applicable to go-it-alone businesses as well. One particularly useful aspect of Finkelstein’s work is his indicators, or warning signs, that there may be trouble on the horizon. These are the most relevant warning signs for solo entrepreneurs:


In Chapter 8, this book argues that simplicity is a critical component for go-it-alone success. Finkelstein similarly finds that “unnecessary complexity is a warning sign because it tends to create bigger problems than it solves.” As a consequence, you should be concerned if the business is starting to seem overly complex or if the solutions to a specific problem seem complex.

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GO IT ALONE! Copyright 2004 by Bruce Judson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.