Failure is an almost sexy word for startups these days.
It means you tried something that was not properly executed or wanted by the market—but if you managed to learn and grow from it, failing should be celebrated.
I look back on some of my “failed” career experiences that I have signed up for by choice and now view as delusional in what I thought I could achieve when looking back. I take personal accountability because I signed on and made the decisions to put myself in that position. There is often a price to pay for ambition but no regrets if you learn and grow. Experience can be expensive in both direct and indirect costs but is still better than not trying.
Thankfully both good and especially bad lessons give wisdom to apply to future endeavors. This includes being able to monetize experiences in projects and mentor other businesses in similar situations. Failure has changed how I view and structure deals and manage expectations in the earlier stages of any project or partnership. There are many reasons that things can go sideways for a company including:
- Weak systems/no systems;
- Poor planning;
- Lack of commitment from the founders;
- Bad decisions compounded;
- Not enough man power to execute vision;
- Lack of foundation or compelling vision for the business;
- Ran out of cash;
- Lack of knowledge of the customer’s needs;
- and/or not enough demand from the market.
The odds are stacked in your favour to lose but the more you try the better your chances of inevitably succeeding like Kurt Theobald, cofounder and CEO of Classy Llama on his 11th company.
"Nine out of ten businesses fail, so I came up with a foolproof plan: create ten businesses."
– Robert Kiyosaki
Losing is hard psychologically but definitely makes you expand your perspective and sharpen your abilities to make better decisions. One of my past clients is on her second company after her first one didn’t work out. Her new venture was a passion side project that had enough pull from the market for her to quit her day job and continue to expand her product lines beyond the 15 stores she is in. She has organically been pulled back into being a business owner and is more confident with her previous experiences to guide her which has helped lower her risk tolerance to suit where she is now.
I have found it is actually easier to just say you failed despite whatever the circumstances were. It is not something to be proud of when communicating but it’s better than reopening a wound and keeps the conversation shorter. It is gracious of others to make excuses on your behalf but since you were in the situation and it was your choice, take it as your own and move on and don’t repeat the same lesson again.
Everything is clearer why things didn’t pan out after you survive a failure.
It can be nobler to admit defeat when things aren't working versus lying to yourself as well. Failure is life’s way of removing you from a situation or approach that isn’t working or is delaying a result and is never short of teaching you things you never wish to repeat again.