Napoleon Bonaparte famously said that “He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.” And many as business owners we are often terrified of failure. Imagine what you could achieve if you weren’t afraid to fail? If you took those big chances – and reaped big rewards.
While we may not admit it outright or be even conscious of it, many of us allow fear to stall our attempts at success. As a result we spend a life time ‘playing it safe’, yet quietly desperate as we sit on the sidelines and watch others succeed.
Sometimes the fear of failure is so potent that people stall on their dreams and fail to pursue them. They forever wait for the ‘right opportunity’, not realising that sometimes in life, the only opportunity we get are those we create for ourselves.
The bad news is that everyone fails at something at some point in their lives. The good news is also that everyone fails at something at some point in their lives. It’s not the failure in itself that is important, it’s how the failure is perceived and the lessons one learns from the experience that have far greater importance.
Look, I know it’s tough. You’ve failed big time, things didn’t go as planned, you’re under tremendous emotional and maybe even financial pressure as a result of your plans not working out; and at that point you just want to curl up and wish everything away. The last thing you want is for someone suggesting you examine your mistakes and learn from them.
I’m not one to pretend and I’ll be honest that even I have experienced some catastrophic failures that I felt my entire life had come to a grinding halt and felt completely deflated (tough place to be if you make your living as a professional motivator).
I went through all the emotional motions. I felt the disappointment from my crushing defeat. I felt the fear. I felt the emotional and financial pressures. I knew people would talk and dreaded what they would say. My self-belief was put to the test and at some point I even doubted if I was ever going to recover.
Walk the talk
I allowed myself to feel the emotions however. I realised that dwelling indefinitely on the event would not change things one bit. If anything, focusing too long on the event itself would only incapacitate me, discourage me further and make it impossible to make rational decisions.
The event occurred. I could not go back in time and change that. Period. What I had to do was to start ‘walking the talk’ and do what had to be done. The faster I got over my emotional upheaval and learnt my lessons, the quicker I could begin to take corrective action and the quicker I could get back to pursuing my dreams.
Feeling the emotions is important, it makes you humble and it makes you smarter the next time round; however, dwelling too long on them and using as a reason to give up and doubt yourself for the remainder of your life is inexcusable.
Also, what helped a great deal was putting the whole event in perspective – so I failed now, but I still have 20 or 30 odd years ahead of me to rectify things and achieve even greater success. Or, I could just lie here, give up and waste away the next 20 or 30 years of my life making excuses for a mediocre life. I could stop taking risks, going after my dreams, believe that the world is unfair, become bitter, pack it all in and just settle for the mediocre.
I realised that if I did that, I would end up being one bitter old man and I would have no one else to blame for a unexceptional life but myself. From where I stood, a six month or 12 month setback was really nothing in the context of the remainder of my life. Regardless of the consequences of our failures, life will carry on.
Believe me, life will not come to a sudden grinding halt just because you messed up. It might destabilise things initially or even for some time, but eventually people will carry on with their lives and you will have to as well. So what’s the point of wallowing in regret?
Using failure to your advantage
It sounds clichéd, but in all honesty, no experience is ever truly a failure if one begins to make a habit of viewing ‘failure’ as learning opportunities and life’s way of making us better. The true failure is when we fail to learn from our mistakes and instead cling on to the emotional pain – thus dooming ourselves to repeating the same mistake again.
The more you learn from your failures, the less likely you are to repeat them the next time round, and the better you will be. Strong people turn their failures into lessons. Weak people turn their failures into excuses.
Afraid of failing? Here are a couple of things to remember:
First, it’s a fact that just about everyone who ever accomplished anything great experienced some form of failure or another before accomplishing their dreams. More often than not, it is only their achievements that get noticed with little or no attention given to the numerous challenges, failures and disappointments they endured on their road to success.
Everyone fails. It’s what you do with it that makes the difference. Successful people also know all too well that success and failure are like the two sides of the proverbial coin. The more times you failed in the past, the better your chances of success in the future – provided you learnt from the past failures, refined your approach and did things differently the next time round.
Second, I sincerely believe that failures need not be an end in themselves unless we choose to make them so. Yes, it’s a choice. You can choose to learn from it or choose to be licked by it. By choosing to develop a mind-set of learning from our failures, not only do we establish what works and what does not; we are also better positioned to do things better the next time round.
Finally, there are countless examples of people like you and me who lost everything; and I mean everything. However through hard work, determination and self-belief they made a choice to elevate themselves from their dire circumstances only to achieve levels of success that far exceeded their pre-failure experience. If they could have nothing makes you or I less capable of doing the same thin and turning our failures aroundg. The difference is whether or not we believe we can.
Failures never leave you unchanged, they either can make you better or worse. You either become stronger as a result or you are left weakened. How you end up after a failure always depends on how you view it and how you choose to use the experience – as an opportunity to learn or as a life-long excuse.
Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk
Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…
You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.
Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.
It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.
There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…
Step 01: Do your research
No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.
Step 02: Understand the costs
Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.
A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.
Step 03: Know when to walk away
As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.
You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.
Mind The Gap
The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.
Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.
Here are five…
It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.
2. Look for pain
Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.
Be the Panado that fixes these pains.
This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.
4. Luck needs courage
You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.
Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.
5. Pay attention
This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.
5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business
As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.
Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.
Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”
As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:
1. This too shall pass
Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.
2. Appreciate what this phase brings
The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.
3. Establish boundaries
Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.
4. Take a break
Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.
5. Give it space to make mistakes
While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.
During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.
While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.