“We have to fail faster.”

The boss once said, ‘We have to fail faster.’ It sounds a little counter-intuitive for a business model when you first hear it. The purpose of a business is to succeed, not to fail. But in application it makes a certain kind of sense.

For an e-commerce company like PulseTV.com success means connecting our customers with products they want to buy. Not exactly an easy thing since the interest of buyers is notoriously fickle. I would hate to admit how much guess work actually goes into finding successful products. That is why it is important to fail and fail fast, because the successes, when they come, are what keep the customers happy and coming back.

And we have had more than our share failures. The hair highlighters are a great example. At a trade show somewhere one of our buyers found a vendor who was willing to sell us tubes of hair highlighter for practically the cost of the product. The highlighter was a water soluble coloring that you could brush into your hair to create accents and highlights, and then simply wash out with shampoo. Safe, simple and fun. We figured it would be huge with teenagers and younger people.

For the price the vendor was offering we committed to tens of thousands of units. And while the highlighters sold, they weren’t the hit we needed them to be to justify the huge purchase we made. We ended up with thousands of them. That is just one example of many.

But what pays for the failures are the successes. Like Smitty’s Glass Wax for example. It is not a very exciting or unusual product, just something you rub on eye glasses or glass screens to keep them from smudging or smearing, but the customers love it. I can’t even tell you how many units we have sold over the years. Sometimes we have trouble keeping it in stock.

Unfortunately it is impossible to differentiate between the hair highlighters from the glass wax when looking for new products. But we keep trying, and sometimes we fail and sometimes we succeed. But the customers know we are always looking to bring them products they need and want. And that is part of what keeps them coming to PulseTV.com.

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