Failure is a constant feature in business environments. Those who have never failed at something have hardly attempted to do anything. For the sake of this piece, I define failure as the end to the existence of a business because it cannot generate sufficient revenue to cover its expenses, thus, creating a loss for investors and creditors alike.
20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% in their second year and around 50% of small businesses fail after five years – it is a normal occurrence. With entrepreneurship, there are a lot of uncertainties ahead of you, many of which are outside your control. You cannot see the end from the beginning; it is a marathon, not a sprint. So, you have to keep trying, but with conviction and self-belief, knowing that failure is part of the process. There is no shortcut to success. Every shortcut leaves you short of something which often includes valuable lessons to survive the long haul.
Business failures could stem from a huge number of factors ranging from strategy implementation through poor product roadmap, business model, pricing and market-fit. There is no silver bullet to building a successful business, but a combination of factors which are peculiar to individual businesses such as location, timing, and experience of founders/owners.
However, one major recurring theme associated with failure in business is a lack of leadership. Success and or failure in businesses have their own unique factors. Therefore, it is imperative to study each occurrence in the context of a particular business. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Failure as a Pivot
The best form of learning is by doing, and only through doing that invaluable lessons of how not to do things are learned. In analyzing failure, you might not learn the best way to do things, but you will certainly learn how not to do them next time.
Business management and entrepreneurship should be more about pragmatism than belief. It requires focus on actual events than an emphasis on assumptions and optimism. Failure affords one the opportunity of first-hand learning and experience, but only if its lessons are not allowed to waste. Own, document and analyze failure. It is a badge of honour. At least you were brave enough to try something.
Failure in itself is not a problem, but not learning from the experience is. Not learning from failure is the single most individual obstacle to human progress.
The main emphasis on documenting and analyzing failure is to understand the high and low points throughout the business life-cycle with the goal of exposing the pinch points along the ways. This would give a blueprint on how to identify and tackle problems because both the symptoms and remedies will become familiar from previously documented experience. The experience can be your pivot to the next successful venture.
Failure is Part of the Process. Be Optimistic, Accept It, Learn and Try Again
Failure is inevitable, considering the complexities and complications in situations entrepreneurs find themselves sometimes. Some things are outside your control, such as regulations, competitions, and availability of funding. However, your attitude towards failure is what determines if and how you recover from it. Positivity carries the day. From my experience, individuals with optimism learn from mistakes/failures and are prone to making sense of failure in a more beneficial way.
The lessons from failure propel positive people on to the next venture. Optimists are more likely to treat adversity as a challenge to transform problems into opportunities and rebound quickly from setbacks, but the same cannot be said for pessimists.
You have to believe in yourself. Failure sometimes induces grief and triggers self-doubt that often creates obstacles which do not only derail you from learning through your mistakes but also prevents you from continuing as an entrepreneur.
The process is not for the faint-hearted, but it is not impossible. There are successful entrepreneurs/SME owners out there but each has their own story. Many have put their sweat, tears and blood to make their business thrive. It is not done overnight. If you doubt me, ask the successful people you know for their candid experience of the entrepreneurial journey.
Failure is Not When You Don’t Succeed, it is When You Stop Trying
Do not be ashamed to own, analyse and talk about failed projects. It is important to document and refer to the experience. It should not be allowed to go to waste. The knowledge of how not to do things in business is actually a decent start for doing things correctly. It could be the springboard you need to propel you further.
Failure is not when you try and don’t succeed. Failure is when you are afraid to try or stop trying because of other people’s perspectives and opinions. You do not need validation from anyone else. You have to believe in yourself. The limit to what you can achieve depends on the bar you set for yourself. Greatness is achievable, but you have to put in the work and persevere. The only short cut is the long game.
Don’t be deterred when things don’t go to plan, that is an opportunity to discover what you can really do. We are not what we are capable of doing when we are comfortable. Our inner strength kicks in when we are constrained. Failure provides opportunities, do not hesitate to take them and get on to the next.
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