How to Prevent Success from Undermining a Great Product

You did it!

The idea you had for a great product has now come to life thanks to a bit of ingenuity, some hard work, and a whole lot of commitment. Sales are ratcheting up—and there's seemingly no end to how far you can ride this wave of success.

Then, suddenly, you get an email from your supplier. Unfortunately, they tell you that they can't keep up. Now, all that momentum and potential has come to a screeching halt. So, what now?

There are several reasons success can lead to the downfall of a great product, service, or even the business itself. Some you can control, and some are a little more difficult to navigate. We look at ways to mitigate them here.

Supply Chain Philosophy

Aligning and procuring a steady stream of resources is key to sustaining a successful product. But that's only part of the equation.

In 7 supply chain management tips from a veteran entrepreneur, Franco Aquila, CEO of Iplayco, states that a philosophical shift helps his company define success on its own terms. "We work the opposite way from most manufacturers who make promises to customers and then figure it out with their suppliers later," Aquila says. This is a recipe for disaster.

Instead, Aquila consults with suppliers early and often to ensure shifts in demand—even seismic ones—can be mitigated. "You don’t want to surprise your suppliers," says Aquila. "We keep in constant touch with them. We sit down with them, let them know what’s coming, what we’re planning down the road."

According to Aquila, this builds loyalty and creates a network of suppliers that can be trusted to go the extra mile. Moreover, they're likely to be upfront about possible delays so they can be managed successfully.

The Complacency Factor

The phrase "don't let success go to your head" was coined because success can often change your worldview for the worse. It can lead you to believe you're the most intelligent person in the room and immune to issues like failure.

A successful product can do this, too. After all, you came up with the idea that everyone loves—why wouldn't this be the case indefinitely? Moreover, why would you ever want to change what you're doing?

While consistency is key to sustaining success, an unchanging outlook can undermine it and lead to failure. As a case in point, we look to one of the biggest successes—and failures—of the 2000s as outlined in this piece by Management Matters Network:

Take Blockbuster Entertainment, for example. In 2000, Reid Hastings, the founder of what then was a fledgling company known as Netflix, had the gall to suggest a business partnership to John Antioco and his management team at Blockbuster Video.

Antioco is no dummy. In fact, Antioco was at the time viewed by many as a retail genius. But during Hasting's visit, Blockbuster was feeling pretty insular, and didn't believe that this almost unknown company's innovative business model offered any value. In fact, it was reported that Hastings got laughed out of the room. Who is laughing now? Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010 and Netflix is worth almost $150 billion.

The piece summarizes this anecdote by reminding business owners to maintain a "healthy paranoia" when it comes to success.

Selling At The Peak

When a successful product is synonymous with the company and sustaining that success becomes almost unsustainable without a massive supply chain, logistical or other adjustments, you might consider cashing in on this success by selling the business.

Larger companies with more robust supply networks, flush marketing budgets, and broader consumer bases may be willing to leverage your success into their own, while rewarding you in the process.

In this piece on Viking Mergers and Acquisitions, they recommend the best time to sell is when you may not feel like selling at all, for instance, when you have a wildly successful product. "You want to sell your business when everything is going great." The piece says doing so at the peak can mitigate the urge to hang on too long and prevent a business from choking on its own success.

Whether you change your philosophy on supply chain management, keep complacency at bay, or cash in on your success, you deserve to be congratulated for the effort. Now, the question you have to ask yourself is, where do you go from here? 

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