Ashley Baxter: I suck at my job

Orde Saunders' avatarPublished: by Orde Saunders

It's taken longer than I'd like to admit to myself that I suck at my job. How do I know I suck at my job? My business is failing (that's hard to say).

People are talking about failure - they're even encouraging it (fail fast, fail often - fail often so you can succeed sooner) and that's pish. I take pride in my work, the fact my business isn't doing well hurts me.

Failing to meet your own expectations.

At 16 I set up a record label with £1000 my dad gave me and put it all into making one CD - only made £250 pounds back. Realised that making money isn't easy - just because a product exists people won't necessarily buy it.

Failure with bigger repercussions.

I later inherited the family business, at 18 my passion wasn't buy-to-let insurance and it still isn't. Design and technology is my passion, I thought that if I could combine the two and build my product with good design it would be a differentiator and I'd attract business. However, being a broker I lack control of the most important aspect of my business - the quote system. The quote system is the reason people are on your website and insurers pay very little attention to it - even I find the quote process hard to use! I built a prototype of a much better quote system and was just about to take it to the insurers and getting them to adopt it. Then I got an email saying I'd just had the worst week in the history of the business. The insurers were very positive and pledged to help make the problem better but two years later nothing has happened :-(

I've had to switch my focus to the marketing site. When I took it over it was a bit of a shambles, it's now a much more professional and polished site. Unfortunately, my audience (landlords who care about good design) don't exist (or don't exist in meaningful numbers). Dressing up a product or service doesn't accomplish anything unless it's already valuable. Insurance is a very slow moving industry, they offered a brainstorming session which sounded like a good idea - their idea of an innovative solution was to try Adwords? (in insurance it can be £20 per click which is my entire margin on a sale), how about SEO? (it doesn't really work in insurance), how about social media? (I don't understand the mind of a landlord).

I've tried writing articles and talking at conferences but the people who listen aren't landlords. I have a product/audience fit problem. I've tried to turn Broker's Direct into the company I want it to be but it's not working. If I hadn't tried then I wouldn't have learned that I love the web, I have learned to code, I have become a public speaker. And much more. These are what I chose to focus on.

Don't trivialise failure. But if it does happen but it's not the end of the story - it's a stepping stone to something better. Like the business I'm launching today: Insurance by Jack - insurance for businesses. This has been a whirlwind of a realisation. Sometimes things don't work out, if that happens move forward, evolve and try something else.