They say that doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will, and for the millions of would-be entrepreneurs, no words could hold more truth. Too often, many aspiring small business owners get so preoccupied with avoiding failure that they never actually follow through with their plans. So, what can you do to avoid this trap? In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks, along with INGroup Creative co-founder and owner Jeannette Dardenne, offer practical advice on how to move past these mental blocks so you can finally launch your small business.

Executive Summary

0:50—Today’s Topic: Why Do People Fail to Launch Their Small Businesses?

1:13—In an attempt to avoid failure, many aspiring business owners will overthink their plans to the point that they’re too scared to take the first step.

3:43—To offset some of your apprehension, start by writing your business objectives and then break them down into smaller goals or tasks.

4:43—Instead of letting your competition overwhelm you, focus on your personal story and emphasize the unique qualities that set your business apart from others.

6:05—Consumers respond to authenticity, so don’t be afraid to share your planning process with your target audience; this transparency will make them more invested in your brand.

8:58—While social media gives the impression of unfiltered transparency between your business and your audience, it’s important that you always present yourself as a professional extension of your brand.

10:24—If you have a business partner, you need to be able to work together as a team to provide your clients with the best service possible. Working with a business partner provides you with another perspective and forces you to keep an open mind.

12:18—Accept that mistakes are part of the process; in certain circumstances, making a mistake can humanize you in the eyes of your audience and give you the opportunity to connect with them on a deeper level.

15:24—Don’t be afraid to reach out to other professionals and colleagues who can help you launch your new business.

16:50—You can always test the waters by launching your business on a smaller scale or by marketing to a narrower audience.



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Gene: Hey everybody, and welcome to the Small Biz Ahead podcast, sponsored by The Hartford. This is a podcast for your small business, where we share all sorts of advice and tips and talk to really interesting people that can help you run and grow your small business. My name is Gene Marks. I am here with my great co-host, Jon Aidukonis. Jon say hello.

Jon: Hello everybody.

Gene: Yeah. We are here talking to Jeannette Dardenne, who is the co-founder and owner of INGroup Creative. And Jeannette is a marketing branding specialist. We’re actually doing a few segments with her, just trying to really drain her mind of all the information that she has to help us market and grow our businesses.

And today we’re going to be talking about failure to launch. And I know both Jon and I have a bunch of questions for Jeannette on this topic. So Jon, I’m going to turn it over to you first and let you go, go ahead.

Jon: Awesome. Thanks Gene. Hey Jeanette, how is it going?

Jeannette: It is going fantastic. I’m so excited to talk about this topic. It is one of my most frequently asked scenarios when I work with clients.

Jon: Awesome. Well, let’s dive right in there, because I think sometimes the hardest thing to do is to take the first step. What’s your perspective on that? Why is it that you find that people fail to launch ideas off the ground or get stuck in the mindset of, they can’t do it?

Jeannette: So often people think too much, that’s really what it comes down to. I always joke with some of my clients and I tell them, ‘Just stop thinking, just ask. What’s the worst that could happen if… If no one pays attention, pull it back in, bring it back in and let’s change it up a little bit.’

Jon: I think that’s so right. I think we are our worst enemies when it comes to getting in our own way, and it’s interesting. I just had a conversation with someone the other day, and this is much easier said than done advice because it’s one of those things when you say it, you’re like, ‘I should take my own advice.’

I think that we need to be more like we are with our best friends to ourselves. And instead of telling ourselves, ‘Well, I don’t know if I have the skillset or the capabilities, or is this the right thing for me?’ When you look at that person in the eye, ‘You got this, you can do this.’

We need to, I think give ourselves some of that grace. And I think get out of our own ways and be able to separate fear from intuition because I think so much of what holds us back is unfounded fear and insecurity. And we convince ourselves that it’s our gut feeling when it’s a whole bunch of noise and it probably comes from something else that happened at the whole another part of our life.

Jeannette: Couldn’t agree more. I mean, there’s so much intimidation. It’s easy to look at what a competitor is doing and say, ‘Oh my God, there’s just no way that I’ll be able to get in front of that same audience.’ Or, ‘Geez louise, what will my and family think? They’ve always questioned my success and now here I am putting myself out there.’ But, really it takes a lot of confidence and gusto.

Jon: I’m there with you. And it’s interesting. Because I think we do, especially in the small business space, we all try and… I shouldn’t say we all, but I think it’s a common thing where people look and think like, ‘Well that market’s already dominated.’ Or, ‘That product is already out there. That concept already exists.’

But when you really look at the landscape, that’s true for some of the most successful brands. And I don’t think it’s about being the first, necessarily. I think sometimes it’s about executing the best. And I think about, there’s room and degrees of entry for everyone.

I don’t think that anyone really owns a category, but what are some of the things people can do to get out of their own way? When you do get a client that says that and you’re telling them not to think so much, what are some of the actions they can take to really get ready and move forward?

Jeannette: One thing that I tell people is, first to just get out a piece of paper and just to together her some plan, what are you thinking? You don’t have to sit down and spend five hours putting together a 30-page business plan, but just start putting your thoughts together, think about what you want to do.

The biggest thing is put it into bite sized pieces. What do you think you want to focus on first? Do you have a specific product that you’re looking to launch? Great. Now let’s break down how we’re going to launch it. So make it easy for yourself. Don’t over-complicate it, there’s so many ways to test out products and services without failure.

Jon: I think that’s a great thing to chunk it out. Because I think it’s much easier to accomplish tasks sometimes than projects. I do believe that most times we stop ourselves or because we’re working on the long game and we want that immediate satisfaction for something that’s going to take a while to manifest. So I think that’s a really good piece of actual advice for all of us to take is, let’s pause, let’s think of the steps we need to take to get to the goal we want to accomplish and just keep it moving forward.

I think it’s something else that you said, which is interesting is don’t focus on what everyone else is doing. I think it’s great to learn from your competitors, but I think in the end, the race is really with yourself. How can you get faster? How can you get better? How can you get more strong and nimble and adaptable? And you almost have to treat it like athlete conditioning.

Jeannette: Absolutely. You really have to create a story. I think the most successful products and services have some story behind it. There’s a woman that I ran into recently and she created a new lip care line, and you could say to yourself, ‘My gosh, there are a million products out there that focus on lips. But what she did is she created a story around why she created this lip care business and it really helped us set her apart. She started with one product and see how it went. And luckily for her the audience came in droves and then she decided to launch another product and it just snowballed from there. But again, she put it in bite sized pieces.

Jon: I think that’s actually interesting your point about a story. I believe that one thing that sometimes prevents productivity is our need to want to be what we think everyone else wants us to be. And I think what I’ve seen is that sometimes the most interesting people and the most successful brands are the people who are unapologetically themselves. They’re 100% honest about what they do and why they do it.

They own that part of themselves 100% and infuse it into everything they touch. And I think this kind of need of some people might call it covering or masking or creating a persona can be so much work and energy that it takes us away from what we’re actually trying to do in the world. And I think especially as a small business owner or an inventor of things or products or concepts, really leaning into that thing that makes you unique, your lived experience, the things that inspired you to say, ‘This is something I want to pursue.’ I believe that’s one of the most powerful tools that we have. And I think it’s sometimes one of the most underutilized.

Jeannette: Absolutely. One of my secrets that I often share with people is, to do BTS and I’m not talking about the famous Pop fan. I mean, behind the scenes. Show behind the scenes on how you were inspired by this new product or service. Show behind the scenes on how you’re designing, decorating, creating. Let people get into your creativity. Make them a part of the planning process. So they feel more invested. These story options that are available on quite a few of the social media channels are real opportunity for people to let people in and see what you’re putting out there.

Jon: Yeah. I agree. I think there’s a lot of tools out there to invite people into the process and also still control the narrative, but I 100% am with you, it’s more than just finding a potential sale. It’s really about creating some level of fandom and fellowship. And I think the more you can bring someone into the why you’re doing something and the how it’s done, the more invested they feel and the more likely they are to really support you. Jeanette, it’s been a great conversation. We have need to take a quick ad break talking about what keeps us going. So we’ll pause quickly and we’ll be back in a second.

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Jon: We hope you enjoyed that word from our sponsor. We’re back at it. Jeanette Dardenne from in-group creative talking about failure to launch Gene Marks by Gene. How about you take a here. I’ve been talking a lot today.

Gene: Thanks Jon. Jeanette, I got a bunch of questions for you and we’re talking about failing the launch, which is not just… We’re talking about failing to launch a campaign actually getting out of the batter’s box and doing it. You and Jon were talking in the last segment about social media showing a little bit how the sausage is made.

Don’t you think that social media now is pushing business owners into launching faster without doing all the planning that they might’ve done in the past, because people want something real time. They like the transparency. It’s all out there, I guess is what I’m saying is that impacted your client’s marketing campaigns?

Jeannette: This is a great point. Absolutely. I mean, you have to make sure that you’re continually branding yourself. So even though we’re saying show some behind the scenes, the BTS, you need to make sure that you are still a professional. You don’t want to be walking around in ripped up jeans and your hair is a mess and things are scattered all over. You don’t want to portray a message that you have no idea what you’re doing, but I think you just have to try to control that message that you’re putting out there, put together some roadmap so that you can follow a process. And then you’re going to get in front of your audience and make sure that they have a clear understanding of why you’re even inviting them in to be a part of this journey.

Gene: Fair enough. My dad passed away back in 2005, but him and I were in business together for a while. And there good and bad about it, but it was an enjoyable relationship. One of the places where we always locked horns, Jeanette was marketing campaigns. He was always more of a thinker and a planner and I was more just ‘Oh enough already. Let’s just get out there and do it.’ And I’m wondering, you must deal with businesses that have partners and I’m sure that when do you deal with businesses that have partners? There are some that are more conservative than others and then others that are just like me, ‘Whatever, throw it, get it out there.’ How do you deal with that? How do you work with clients when there are more than one decision maker and trying to find a common ground so that things can move forward? What advice do you have?

Jeannette: We call that the yin and the yang. I think it’s so important that if you do have a business partner, that you’re making sure that you’re seeing both sides of it. I mean, oftentimes you can really compliment each other and help the client even more. You have to be open to all different ideas. If you don’t have a partner, you need to make sure that you’re asking for help from other people and present an idea and say,

‘Hey, listen, from your perspective, what are your thoughts?’ It’s amazing how we can all read or actually can all look at an image and read the conscience vote. And each of us walks away with a different message. Our brains all are wired differently. You want to make sure that you speak with your partner or anyone whose close to you and make sure that they are also in agreement with what you’re doing. You want to make sure that they understand the message that you’re trying to put out.

Gene: Right. So listen, mistakes are going to happen. There are people in this world that they want to avoid all mistakes. They’re perfectionists. I am not one of those people, which is good that I’m not building airplanes. I’ll send out an email campaign or all of them, new marketing launch for one of our CRM products and ‘Oops, I forgot to include that photo.’ Or there’s a typo in the email or there’s… what do you tell clients when mistakes actually happen so that they’re able to basically get back on the bike again and keep moving.

Jeannette: I have to tell you I’m very much like you I often don’t focus enough on the details. I’m more of a high level macro thinker, but the bottom line is we all make mistakes. We are all human. If you pick up any major newspaper, you’re always going to see a byline that says ‘In last week’s paper, we made an error here, here, here, and here.’ So it’s human. The great thing about digital if you’re marketing in the digital space, you can go back in and often edit, whatever was put out there.

Listen, if you send an email newsletter out and you forget the image, sometimes it’s even more funny when you email them all back and say, ‘Hey guys, guess what I did today? I forgot to send the image along with my newsletter. Hey, everyone, enjoy your day.’ There’s a lot of pluses and minuses with that. The biggest plus is the fact that, Hey, now you’ve gotten back in touch with them. If they didn’t read your first email, they’re definitely going to read your second email. And they’re probably going to have a little chuckle and feel better about themselves, because guess what? They probably made the same mistake last week.

Gene: It’s really funny. I mean, I’ve actually done that on purpose a couple of times, I will send out an email with an attachment to a group of prospects and be like, ‘Oh, per the attachments you’ll find blah, blah, blah.’ And I purposely leave off the attachments. How devious is that? So then that way I’ll wait like a few minutes and then send a second email saying, ‘Oops, so sorry. Forgot to attach the attachment. Here you go.’ So now the recipient’s getting two emails from me instead of one both of them are genuine.

Jeannette: Or were urgent.

Gene: Yeah. But it’s maybe the second email gets the attention at the first email wouldn’t get. So sometimes mistakes can be everything thought out in advance.

Jeannette: Yeah. I actually have a colleague who just did the same thing. He sent out an email early in the morning, and then he checked back in around noon and thought, ‘My God, the first email never went out.’ So she sent a whole email out again, not realizing that the first one had actually gone out. So now that we had sent two emails out by 12:00 PM of the day. And would you not believe that he got an enormous amount of positive responses?

Gene: Yeah. And then what’s also funny is that even if you make a mistake in an email that you send out and then you send a correction, oftentimes I’ve got a response, for ‘Hey, that’s okay. Or it happens to all of us’ or, ‘We’ve seen this too.’ I mean, it’s, again just got to be genuine. It’s got to be transparent, but it can work. So listen, it’s just, well, while we have a few minutes left and we’re talking about launching and the failure of some people to move forward, does outsourcing help? If I hired somebody to do my marketing campaigns and said, ‘You do, when it’s ready to go, let me know, check in with me.’ but somebody else’s moving the ball along, have you found with your clients that getting an outsider involved helps with people launching instead of just spinning wheels?

Jeannette: Absolutely. I call it bringing in your circle or bringing in your tribe. And these can be either people that you trust or someone that you may be paying. I think it’s so important to go on this journey with your support network, to have your community around you. Again, we’re all human, we all make mistakes. We don’t have all the answers. If you can, maybe if you’re not really great at creating images, maybe you want to hire a virtual assistant, who can help you out in that area.

Or maybe you have a good friend who owns a place who designs images. I think it’s really important to lean on people when you can and hey, but the great thing about it is, this is another form of networking. You’re engaging with other people, which is one of the most important tools whenever you’re putting out a product or service.

Gene: That’s great. So Jeanette, just as a final comment for you, I mean, we’ve been talking about all of the, your reasons why people can’t launch and some of the strategies to help them get their campaigns off the ground. But let me just go back to sort of just the very beginning. So you’ve got a client you’re working with them, say it’s me and say, you’re pushing me to get a product announcement out the door or some new campaign going and I’m just procrastinating and saying, ‘Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know if I can. Whatever I’m afraid it’s going to be wrong or maybe this isn’t the time or whatever.’ What do you do to get your clients moving, pulling out a baseball bat and whack it over the head?

Jeannette: Again, sometimes I do want to pull out that baseball bat and say, ‘Come on, you’ve got this fantastic product.’ It’s just saying, ‘Listen, what’s the worst that can happen?’ So put the product out there, let it simmer for two to three weeks. And if you don’t get any engagement, then pull it back and recharge, or maybe if you want put it within your tribe, sell it to your friends and family and see how that works first. Or maybe you belong to a religious community and you want to just put it out to this audience and just see how it works. There’s something to be said for having humility and just putting it out to the people that you trust.

Gene: Yeah. And I also have to add to that. I mean, I’m the person that gets it out there because I really don’t take myself too seriously. Because I know I’m an idiot. So I think to myself, business people and human beings around for thousands of years. I’m going to be dust in another 50 years, nobody cares. There’s a billion people in India right now that could care less if I typo in one of my email campaigns. So just move it forward I guess. And again guys like me, shouldn’t be building iPhones or airplanes, but I think for what we’re doing with the small business, it’s enough.

Jeannette: I always say, I apologize. You’re not apple or Google. So when you put your product out there, unfortunately there’s not going to be millions of people who see it. So typically you’re within a small audience. So what’s the worst that could happen. I agree.

Gene: And you learn from your mistakes and you move on. So I completely agree, Jeanette, thank you so much. Jeanette Dardenne is the co-founder and owner of INGroup Creative that’s Jeanette, great conversation. Thank you very much. My name is Gene Marks and on behalf of my co-host Jon Aidukonis, who is also here, Jon, any final comments that you wanted to make before I sign off?

Jon: No, I think it’s a great conversation and I think it just goes back to the first step is taking the first step. So, trust in yourself and dive in.

Gene: Get moving. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Get back that campaign out there and see what happens. You’ll learn even from your mistakes. So thanks Jon. Again my name is Gene Marks. Thanks everyone for listening to the Small Biz Ahead podcast. We hope you enjoyed it. If you need any advice, tips or help in running your small business, please visit us at We have more to talk about with Jeanette and future segments. So tune into those. We’ll be back soon. Thank you very much.

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