Reflect honestly on your mistakes
Lasith Ranasinghe, Make A Medic
Always keep your north star in mind, and never be afraid to say that you got something wrong.
It is comfortable and rather enjoyable to focus on the successes when thinking of your startup journey. It is more useful, however, to spend some time reflecting honestly on the mistakes that were made. It doesn't matter how many books you have read or courses you have attended, you will inevitably make mistakes along the way. When you are passionate about a venture, especially if it is of a charitable nature, making a bad business decision really does hit where it hurts.
I made what, in hindsight, was a cataclysmic mistake around two years ago in the early days of Make a Medic. We had a lot of ambition but very little money and even less direction. I agreed to pay a friend of a friend £10,000 over the course of three years to develop a website that is coded from scratch and attends to our every need. This seemed to be a good idea at the time because I required complex interactive quiz functionality that I didn’t think could be achieved using a simple website builder. The developer had full enthusiasm and made some good early progress. About one year in, once the initial website was launched, progress ground to a halt. I was being reassured that work was being done, but I was failing to see the outputs. Even simple adjustments to the website would take months or simply not materialise at all.
I had spent £8000 on the website before I realised that it had no future. It had been coded in such a way that it was not particularly easy for me to be able to make changes in the future without having to pay other developers.
Given all that was promised and the amount of money that we had invested in this website, it is easy to fall victim to sunk cost fallacy and continue to funnel resources and money into (pardon the pun) a sinking ship. This predicament caused many a sleepless night but, in the end, I sat down, put my pride aside, and objectively evaluated how my actions from this point onwards would align with the charity’s north star.
It became apparent that our most important and most consistent source of income was our Podia courses, yet I had become so embroiled in the issues surrounding the website that I had spent little time developing our courses. With this much needed clarity, I have made the decision to focus my attention on what matters and what I enjoy – developing courses on Podia. We will be developing a new, simpler information website on the side that will give us control over the contents, without eating into our profits.
This was a difficult decision. It involved acknowledging that I had made a bad decision that had cost the charity a significant amount of money. I am proud, nonetheless, of the fact that I was able to make this decision with the best interests of the charity in mind. I urge all creators to keep in mind what gets you excited and why you’re embarked on your venture. There is a lot of pomp and circumstance that surrounds entrepreneurial endeavours, and it is easy to get stuck in a quagmire of seemingly important tasks that don’t actually get you closer to your goal.
Please do take the time to sit down and reflect upon how things are going – everyone makes bad decisions at some point or another, but we can all learn from these experiences and take steps towards a better future.
Lasith is a junior doctor working in London and founder of Make a Medic.