It’s not always plain sailing.
Business is an arena where less than perfect individuals (we are all humans, remember!) are forced to negotiate an unforgivingly hostile and unpredictable environment. So it goes without saying there will always be a fair few businesses that fold within the first few years of inception. And not all the businesses that survive end up being success stories. Many just meander along, barely breaking even or struggling in the red. Now, there are numerous blogs out there dealing with the topic of failure, and many of them, including Forbes, cite an apocryphal study by Bloomberg stating that “8 out of 10 startups fail within the first 18 months”. That sounds charmingly vague, and you can read here why it may simply not be true.
But that doesn’t mean that all those blogs and sites are full of nonsense. Failure, or lack of success rather, is an eternal aspect of business that all entrepreneurs have to learn to deal with. And there many blogs out there with great advice, including insights from entrepreneurs who have actually experienced life at the deep end. What I am trying to stress here with that Bloomberg story is the difference between failings and failure. Catastrophic failure (closure/winding up) in business has a much lesser chance of probability that many make it out to be, at least in the short run. Businesses struggling along with flawed models and execution are much more common.
And if you are an entrepreneur who has had to swallow the bitter pill of failure, you have no recourse but to try and figure out your mistakes. Failure can be a learning experience, but that doesn’t happen on autopilot. You don’t fail at something and automatically become the wiser for it. You have to put in the effort, reflect on your choices and actions, to identify how they contributed to the demise of your startup. If you don’t, as that old saying goes, you will probably be forced to relive all your past mistakes in your future endeavours as well.
So, ignore your bruised ego and reflect on your failings that actually led to the failure of your business to make the best of a bad situation. It could be a character flaw, and that is great, because that is something that is well within your control and can be worked on. It could be a flaw related to the product/service, or your business model, and that is great too, because those are things that fall within your control as well. Or it could be an adverse market environment which is not within your control, in which case you probably have to learn how to avoid it or weather it in the future.
So you see, there are plenty of positives that can be drawn from a failed business. Hindsight can be a wonderful thing in itself, but ideally, you really shouldn’t allow things to deteriorate this point. It is easier said than done of course, especially if you are a raw young entrepreneur. Some businesses are doomed from the start and precious little can be done to save them. In many situations, you might end up making catastrophic errors that push your business beyond the point of no return, In those situations, it is best to learn you lesson and move on. But as the studies mentioned in that enlightening blog we already mentioned, ailing startups don’t often die a quick death. If you feel that things not working as planned, try and figure out how to improve on them. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, because there is no better way to learn. Seek help or guidance from others and you might actually be able to turn things around.
Long story short, failures and mistakes are bound to happen in business. Being a great entrepreneur is not about not putting a foot wrong, but in learning how not to repeat your errors and mistakes.