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What Entrepreneurs Need to Learn From the Fyre Festival Disaster

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Fyre Festival 2017

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the infamous Fyre Festival. This 2017 music festival turned disaster/international laughing stock has re-entered the public eye due to documentaries released by both Netflix and Hulu that detailed precisely what went down. If you haven’t watched either doc, let’s just say it’s somehow much worse than we all initially thought.

The good news is that entrepreneurs can learn some extremely valuable lessons from Billy McFarland, the leading man behind Fyre, was described as “either the smartest guy in the room or absolutely insane” by his team. He’s now facing 6 years in federal prison and yet started running scams when he was out from bail after the first fiasco.

Entrepreneurs need to pay attention to precisely what happened here, so they don’t repeat the same mistakes. Startup culture tends to idolize guys like McFarland who take significant risks. Sometimes, it works out, and genius truly is present. Sometimes, you turn into a laughing stock.

Here are some key takeaways to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes:

1. Backup fantasy with fact

This is where you need to start. It’s great to dream big and make plans; well over 50% of Americans want to be entrepreneurs, reports Forbes. However, in reality, only 4% of the population actually are entrepreneurs.

How is there such a massive difference between desires and the actual work of being an entrepreneur? The answer lies in execution. The reality of being your own boss is stressful, draining, and requires large quantities of talent, hard work, and luck in turn.

When the Fyre Festival trailer dropped, it was clearly selling a fantasy. It branded itself as “a quest to push beyond…the boundaries of impossible.” World class supermodels like Bella Hadid and Haley Baldwin swimming in crystal clear waters, beautiful crowds at large concerts, endless luxury, waterside cabanas: these were just a few of the promised teased by the trailer.

The reality of the event has been widely shared: leftover hurricane relief tents, soaking wet mattresses, limited food and water, no influencers in sight. Fyre Festival created the fantasy with absolutely no plan to back it up. After they sold 95% tickets within 48 hours of dropping the trailer, the plan stopped there.

A realistic timeline and solid plan are necessary for all entrepreneurial visions to become a reality. Don’t get caught up in the dream at the expense of the details! That’s what makes that 4% successful over any others.

2. Don’t surround yourself with yes men

Billy McFarland was the ideas guy, the dreamer, but certainly not the planner. He had a team of dozens of successful, artistic designers and organizers working under him. These people had no problem coming forward for interviews with each of the documentaries, but at the time, no one could voice their very reasonable concerns.

McFarland was reported over and over as having a ton of charisma and positivity, and would answer any issues with “We’re not a problems-focused group, we’re a solutions-oriented group, we need to have a positive attitude about this.”

These buzzwords probably sound familiar. While positivity is a great trait to have while dealing with stress, it can only get you so far. Certainly not all the way to the Bahamas. You need a team that will listen to you and support you, sure, but you need someone to tell you when you’re off the mark. “Leaders need to surround themselves with those who are willing to step in and prevent a disastrous decision from taking place,” says Art Rainer.

Mckinsey reports that 97% of employees and executives believe that lack of alignment impacts the outcome of a task or project. Build your team with humility in mind. You need to be checked sometimes, and admitting that is an enormous strength.

3. Know when to call it

Sometimes, your business idea just isn’t going to succeed. That’s just a reality of the entrepreneurial life. The key here is to know when to call it quits. There were a laughable amount of points throughout the “planning” process where admitting defeat would have saved the entire team time, money, stress, and jail time.

McFarland ignored all of it, and finally cracked “when all the guest arrived to the mess,” explains Complex. “After all the guests had left and locals who worked on the festival started demanding money, he was nowhere to be seen.”

The Fyre team could have postponed the festival, explained the issue, or just flat out cancelled, especially when the night before Day 1 the festival site was flooded with rain and the tents and mattresses were ruined, not to mention, the stages were half built and there wasn’t enough temporary housing for 2/3rds of the attendees. Bad press and financial blowback would have been better than the complete disaster of the actual event.

Make sure to begin with a bulletproof process for your entire business pitch, including a plan for failure. Cover your financial bases, make sure everyone involved gets paid appropriately, and learn for the future.

Not every idea will succeed, and that might actually be a good thing for your long term career. You just need to know when to call it. Learn from the worst, become the best. There’s a reason Fyre Festival has become so notorious. The power of influencers and social media as well as the manipulations of McFarland and the naivety of his team all combined into one of the most memorable events of the last few years.

Entrepreneurs just getting started as well as seasoned business people need to take note and make sure not to repeat these same mistakes. Have a solid plan, a reasonable and communicative team, and a realistic timeline, and you’ll be on the right track.

Parker Davis is the CEO of Nexa, a leader in the virtual receptionist and technology-enabled answering services industry. He believes that the application of data analytics, investment in technology, and fostering a positive company culture together create highly efficient and scalable growth companies. In 2016, Nexa achieved record revenues while also being awarded the Top Companies to Work For in Arizona award. Parker is also the Managing Partner of Annison Capital Partners, LLC, a private investment partnership. Follow him @callnexa and on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Are you completely new to networking?

Then this article is a great place to start. Networking isn’t hard on paper…you go along to online and in-person meetings, make new connections and build relationships, and those relationships lead to more work so you can grow your business! The challenge is that in reality, it isn’t quite so straightforward, as our emotions get involved and make things much tougher.

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Here’s a few tips to help you embrace every business networking opportunity you get, so you can grow your business and achieve your goals.

Rock up with confidence

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Keep your chin up and your goals in mind – positivity is key. One easy goal for your first networking meeting is very simply to speak to one other person and see where the conversation goes. Introduce yourself and your business, but take the time to listen to their story, too. It’ll only take a few minutes and will be over before you know it, so it’s nothing to fear. You may even enjoy it and want to speak to a few more people, too!

“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

Where to go networking

If you’ve never been networking before, it might not be very easy to find a group – but only because there’s so much choice and you don’t know where to start your search! Groups come in different sizes and styles, so it’s important to find one that suits you and your business. Informal, formal, big, small… the choice is yours.

For your first meeting, start small to ease yourself in – a big group could prove too daunting, and stop you from feeling comfortable enough to get involved. After all, you want to make a strong first impression!

If you’re wondering which group to opt for in the long-term, give a few a go! Get a feel for them, speak to as many people as you can, and see which one suits! You’ll know when a group feels right for you, and you can see where those all-important relationships are most likely to be built. If a group doesn’t feel like the right for you, give a different one a go.

Get more leads and referrals

This will happen for you, as long as you put the effort into building those relationships. If you take the time to get to know people, and then check in with them and support them, they’ll see you as a trustworthy and reliable contact who they can call on. And when they feel that way, those leads and referrals you’re looking for will come a-knocking.

Once you’ve made relationships with people who you trust, and they’ve had a positive experience working with you, you can even ask for referrals! But don’t rush this, as you don’t want to inadvertently push people away or try and force the relationship along too quickly.

When you do get an opportunity to work with someone you’ve met at a networking group, go above and beyond to offer more value than they’re expecting, as then, they’ll be much more likely recommend you and introduce you to more of their contacts!

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