Embracing failure: 4 mistakes we've learned from

Mistakes don’t just enable growth, they supercharge it.

Embracing failure: 4 mistakes we've learned from

“Perfection is overrated, boring. It's the imperfections - the vulnerabilities, the weaknesses, the human elements – that make us who we are, that make us real, beautiful, necessary.” Guy Harrison, author.

Starting a business is hard. Running a business is even harder. Just when you think you're getting somewhere, something unexpected can take you right back to where you began. Market conditions can shift, team members can prove the wrong fit, and competitors may suddenly introduce innovations that disrupt your plans. It can often feel as if you’re navigating shifting sands.

In theory, it’s these setbacks that can teach us the most valuable lessons. But analysing and revisiting them is another thing altogether. Who wants to be reminded of the things that went wrong? Especially when it’s sometimes hard enough to focus on the positives.

Well, it’s something that we at Lumi try to do regularly. Perhaps not every day, but a couple of times a year at least. Because they’re such a valuable part of the growth process. In fact, mistakes don’t just enable growth, they supercharge it. How else can you learn unless you “Move fast and break things” to quote the title of Jonathan Taplin’s 2017 book?

So while it may be uncomfortable, we’re going to share with you the four most valuable mistakes we’ve learned from. By sharing these, we hope to help others avoid similar pitfalls and embrace their own failures as opportunities for growth.

Let’s dive right in.

1) Not listening to the client’s needs

At first, we failed to align our services with what clients truly wanted, focusing more on our own vision than theirs. The change we made not only suited our clients better, but us too.

We initially approached our business with a strong focus on consulting and strategy. However, we quickly realised that what our clients really wanted was high-quality, personalised design.

Our week-long sprints, designed to fast-track development, left clients asking for more detailed, in-depth support over a longer period. They started asking "What do we do next?” “Can we book another sprint?”. Our intention with the sprints was to provide something that would fast-track their app development so they could leap to the next stage. But we learned that providing ongoing support throughout the development process was crucial.

Many startups tend to pivot, or change direction quickly based on ongoing user feedback; with us by their side to respond quickly and decisively to this they can get to the end result a lot more quickly, without the need to hire anyone else.

This shift not only better suited our clients, but also allowed us to engage more deeply with their projects. We could now understand their needs better, iterate based on feedback, and provide a much more definitive result.

2) Disjointed development recommendations

Referring clients to external developers led to fragmented projects; integrating design and development improved outcomes.

Part-way through a design project, we often received requests from clients for developer recommendations. But when we referred them to external companies, the projects became disjointed.

We couldn’t oversee the implementation of our designs, which led to inconsistent results.

Realising the benefits of offering an end-to-end service, we started managing both design and development. This not only ensured coherence and quality in the final product but also provided greater satisfaction for both our clients and ourselves.

3) Focusing on low-impact tasks

We spent excessive time on low-priority tasks, learning to prioritise high-value activities instead.

Early on, we devoted significant effort to developing templates and processes such as invoicing to reflect our brand’s aesthetic. We’ve since heard that this is something many business owners focus too hard on at the beginning – who doesn’t feel a thrill when they see their first letterhead come to life?! It somehow makes everything seem more real.

In reality, this is just a classic case of procrastination. Crucially these tasks often diverted attention from more impactful activities.

We’ve since learned to prioritise tasks that directly contribute to client satisfaction and business growth, accepting that some areas can be less polished as long as they are functional and clear.

4) Overthinking the long-term vision

Over-planning and perfectionism hindered our progress; executing and iterating based on feedback proved more effective.

We spent considerable time defining our company’s long-term vision, only to realise that this energy was often misplaced.

The reality is that you can’t really predict future events and feedback. What matters most is taking action, releasing, and iterating based on real-world responses. This is in fact hard to do, which is why many get stuck perfecting something without ever shipping it and finding out whether it really works or not.

Over-engineering within the safety of our own environment may feel comfortable, but it prevented us from gaining valuable insights that only come from live feedback. We learned to balance planning with execution, using mistakes as learning opportunities rather than waiting for the perfect solution.

As you can see, we’ve found that mistakes are not just setbacks; they are crucial steps on the path to success. Not just from a business point of view, but from a personal satisfaction point of view too. We’re much more aligned now to what we’re doing – this is hard to achieve at the beginning of a business when you’re focused on other more practical things (such as finding clients).

By embracing these lessons, we’ve been able to grow and refine our approach, becoming more responsive to our clients' needs and much more effective in our execution. Making mistakes might mean learning the hard way, but we certainly don’t regret the process because it’s made us who we are today.

What have been your favourite mistakes?

Milosz Falinski
About the author

Aleksandra Boguslawska

Led marketing campaigns with biggest brands in the world. Award-winning travel writer. Excels at translating vision into customer-centered journeys. Bad font choices keep her up at night.

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