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The Good Fail: Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Rise and Fall of Microworkz

ISBN: 978-1-118-25071-6
153 pages
May 2012
The Good Fail: Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Rise and Fall of Microworkz (1118250710) cover image
An inside look at how companies and executives rise and fall, with important lessons for all aspiring entrepreneurs

The Good Fail is part business story, part guilty pleasure, exploring Richard Keith Latman's very public missteps and the painful lessons he learned as a result, presented to fellow entrepreneurs, in his own words, for the first time. Written in a lively, conversational style, the book answers questions many computer industry veterans have been asking for more than a decade about what went wrong at Microworkz, the failed former free PC enterprise.

Chronicling Latman's long roller-coaster journey back and offering pointed advice about effective business development, negotiating, human resource management, and leadership, which Latman has successfully applied at his latest ventures, iMagicLab and Latman Interactive, the book is an important set of insights for entrepreneurs everywhere.

  • Offers 19 practical lessons learned, which can help put other entrepreneurs on the path to success faster
  • Includes invaluable insight into how to overcome even the worst public business failures
  • Provides a behind-the-scenes look from the ultimate insider at an important time in computer industry history
  • Presents a case study of how personal and business lives can negatively impact each other

Microworkz's failure can be your success. The Good Fail provides both important insights into how to start a business that will reap rewards, and warnings about how to avoid going astray.

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Preface ix

Introduction xiii

Chapter 1 Against All Odds 1

Chapter 2 Out of My League 13

Chapter 3 From Brides to BeOS 27

Chapter 4 Catching the Wave 39

Chapter 5 Too Much Too Soon 55

Chapter 6 The Fall 61

Chapter 7 iToaster 79

Chapter 8 Moving On 87

Chapter 9 Redemption 101

Epilogue Nineteen Ways to Avoid a Good Fail 119

Appendix Forty-Seven Success Stories 139

About the Author 153

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Richard Keith Latman is Chief Executive Officer, cofounder of iMagicLab and the Founder of Latman Interactive. Latman drives product development, technology, sales, marketing, and architecture decisions across all iMagicLab/Latman products to ensure the product direction is consistent with the overall strategy of the company and the needs of the marketplace. Over the past nine years, he has trained tens of thousands of salespeople, written over 275 articles, and spoken at major events and seminars nationwide.

Latman has broad experience in the sales, hardware, software, and services sectors, having spent more than 20 years in senior management roles in the IT industry. Prior to founding iMagicLab, Latman helped start many innovative companies including RetailTRAC (sold to Minow LLC), MicroPOS (sold to Micros), and Microworkz.com.

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May 01, 2012
Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Rise and Fall of Microworkz

“I’ve just received notice that the Attorney General’s office has commenced a formal action against you. Bye bye.”  Click.

This phone call would forever change Richard Keith Latman’s life. It was the start of The Good Fail.

Founder and then CEO of Microworkz, a technology company that Latman dreamt would provide affordable and educational computers to those less fortunate, Latman and his business were thrown into the center of a formal investigation led by the state of Washington’s Attorney General.

This legal action would ultimately result in fines from Microsoft, the dissolution of Microworkz, a personal bankruptcy, divorce, severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

The Good Fail: Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Rise and Fall of Microworkz (Wiley, May 2012) tells Latman’s story and explains why failure is a necessary stepping stone to success.

A “good fail” is a failure that has a learning value greater than the offset collateral damage. It is a failure that one is unlikely to repeat, but that helps to positively shape the person’s managerial style and business acumen. These types of failures are inherent to success and lead to new ideas about customers, innovations, and business plans.

The Good Fail explains how companies can master this process of risk-taking and “stumbling towards success” in order to better their business. Latman offers advice for “getting good” at failure and 19 ways to avoid a good fail, such as:

  • Build It, Then Sell It.  Be ultraconservative in your sales approach and enter the market completely confident in your product and ability to deliver exactly what you promise.
  • Surround Yourself with Hunters, Not Farmers. Hunters are proactive in their search for information and opportunities and execute with precision. Farmers gather and gather and churn information and don’t get much done.
  • You Are Your Own Worst Employee. Are you an expert at what you do? Most will say yes. But are wrong. By believing you know almost all there is to know about your business, you are setting limitations that don’t exist, and are likely causing drama and diminishing focus in the business you love.
  • Accept “No” For an Answer. Then ask why. And learn from it.
  • Don’t Just Worry About Failure, Worry About Success. Great publicity launched Latman’s Microworkz to the big league, but they couldn’t keep up with supply and demand (for various reasons). “We failed to prepare and plan for the business to do exactly what every business person prays will happen.” Be prepared.

It turns out, Latman’s and Microworkz’s failures went on to become only minor roadblocks in his professional life and ultimately provided him with important lessons on executive leadership, business management, and distribution models.

It took some time, and more failures, to get back on his feet, but Latman finally found his way back to an industry he loved – selling cars in record numbers -- while developing software to keep better track of sales leads and customer relationship management.

Today, Latman is the CEO and Co-Founder of iMagicLab, a soft company focused on the auto-industry, and the Founder of Latman Interactive.

The Good Fail is Latman’s story.  “Despite all the tumult at Microworkz and the fact that it did not survive, the folks in Silicon Valley still call it a ‘good fail.’ It was a failure that entrepreneurs can learn from and that I, personally, could learn from and leverage to go on and start an even more successful company. What I learned was greater than the ultimate loss. That’s a good fail.”

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