Some small business owners fail big time. On a radio show the other evening a small business adviser told the story of a business person who secured a large order with a chain store. The owner went to his bank, took out a big loan and built a plant to manufacture product. The chain came back and renegotiated the product’s price and made it clear that his business would need to pay for delivery costs. He hadn’t factored these costs in his business plan and now he is on his way to financial ruin unless he comes up with a solution fast.
How do you deal with failure? What have you learnt from failure? What are the more effective ways of dealing with business failure?
First time entrepreneurs fail a lot. In fact, many Internet marketers brag about their early failures and recite many valuable lessons that they have learnt from their failures.
A Malaysian business professor who is running a global course in entrepreneurship encourages his students to fail as quickly as they can so that they will learn from their mistakes.
My biggest and costliest business mistake was starting a business that I ran for about a year and while the product was good I couldn’t obtain the distribution that I had optimistically forecast when starting out. I shut it down but for a long time thereafter had to deal with the embarrassment, challenge to my self-esteem and pain of loss. Yet thinking about the reasons exactly why I had failed provided a valuable lesson and taught me just how important distribution is in any small business.
What then can you do to deal with failure in business?
I think one of the first things is to think about the exact reason why you failed. It seems that there is always a lesson that you can take away from a business failure which will help you in future. Perhaps we need to give failure a much higher value in our lives.
Another thing is to not get so tied up in listening to what others think. You don’t need to feel ashamed of yourself because you have failed in business. At least you have tried and given it your best shot. As long as you don’t give up, the failure would have been worthwhile.
Even though you may be feeling messed up after a business failure, don’t be so hard on yourself. One mistake, although it might be big, doesn’t define you as a person. We are not the sum total of all our mistakes but rather the aggregate of how many times we try to succeed.
Failure can act as a way to sharpen our business sword. Failure and the lessons it brings makes you much sharper and smarter in the world of business. By stretching yourself, going further in your life, it exposes you to challenges that most people avoid.
Living with failure or in the aftermath of failure means that you need to remain calm, be humble and respect yourself for having tried. Starting a small business is often a one-shot approach – you have one chance at winning. No one has a batting average that good. Failures are bound to happen.
Winston Churchill said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”. Give yourself permission to fail and remember that the faster you recover from your setbacks, the quicker you can get back into the game with a new business idea that you’ve thought over much more carefully and planned for than your previous one.