Entrepreneurs | Dealing with Business Failure

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Entrepreneurs | Dealing with Failure to Manage Your Business

While most entrepreneurs don’t want to think about a business venture failing, the stark reality is that starting a business is hard work and more often than not, we will all experience failure in one form or another on our journeys.  Most of us know inherently that failure is a reality of life and the learning from failure is what helps us grow. We even know that the greatest achievers of our time were born out of colossal failures.  

Failing isn’t something that anyone wants to do.  However, as new entrepreneurs, you’ll need to consider all aspects of failure, such as that it might be devastating to your financial well-being.  Advance preparation for failure is one of the keys to ensuring that the damaging effects of failure are mitigated. There are many reasons why a business will fail, so what will you do when you see those first signs of something not going right?

“The fastest way to build a successful business from scratch is to fail fast.” – Ajaero Tony Martins

As entrepreneurs, we must ask ourselves, “Why did I fail? What might have produced a better outcome? What did I learn from this?” in the face of every business failure.

As entrepreneurs, the first thing to keep in mind is that even with a failing business, there are many ways that you’ll be able to influence the ultimate outcome.  Susan Tardanico, a leadership and communication consultant, mentions the idea of learning and adapting:  “Look at the failure analytically, suspending feelings of anger, frustration, blame or regret. Why did you fail? What might have produced a better outcome? Was the failure completely beyond your control? After gathering the facts, step back and ask yourself, what did I learn from this?  Think about how you will apply this newfound insight going forward.”  At the first sign of trouble, you’ll need to begin to catalog what steps it might take to remedy the situation.  For example, if you are having financial trouble, perhaps bringing on an accountant or a business manager might help to right the issues.  

If you feel the need to right the wrong yourself, you must recognize the need to educate yourself in the areas that are failing so you can make the most appropriate decision.  It is often difficult to separate the personal feelings associated with failure.  As Tardanico also points out, “Our upbringing has given us an unhealthy attitude toward failure. One of the best things you can do is to shift your perspective and belief system away from the negative (‘If I fail, it means I am stupid, weak, incapable, and am destined to fall short’) and embrace more positive associations (‘If I fail, I am one step closer to succeeding; I am smarter and more savvy because the knowledge I’ve gained through this experience’).”  This shifting in behavior can be stressful and devastating if you are going through it without help, but any success driven from the failure will be that more gratifying since you achieved it alone.

Entrepreneurs must remember a business failure is not personal! If you take it personally, you will not have the room in your heart to pick up the pieces, learn from your mistakes, and start again.

If the failure remains out of control, then you must choose between two difficult decisions. First, you can quit and allow the business to dissolve. The problem with this choice is that you may have to take a loss on all the debts, especially if there are no partnerships.  Or, you could allow others to take over parts of the business so that you can focus on areas of business that may be failing. This may also be a bad choice, because you need to trust these people and often trust is misplaced. It’s hard to make a business work, but it’s even harder to decide what’s in the best interest of the business if there are emotions driven by imminent failure.

Entrepreneurs must remember, the key to keeping your head up during times of failure is to remember that this is not personal.  It may be your name on the letterhead or be your idea, but the failure is of the execution of the business, not of you! If you take it personally, you will not have the room in your heart to pick up the pieces, learn from your mistakes, and start again.  If we look back at all those world figures who came back from colossal failure, you will learn that failure was a critical enabler of their success.  It was their motivator to keep going, a stepping stone to greatness.  So how will you deal with failure if / when the time comes?



Very best wishes for your every success,

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