There are unlimited mantras, quotes, and stories dedicated to coping with failure. This is perhaps because it is a well-accepted fact that failure is simply a part of life. Starting and running a business is often subject to the same outcome. In fact, failure is often a welcomed disposition in the discourse of entrepreneurship because it helps to shape and reshape a successful business. Failure should never be a deterrent from pursuing your business goals. Rather, it should be embraced and perhaps anticipated. In this article, we’ll explore coping with failure in business and using it as a sword rather than a shield.
Business failure can span anywhere from an unsuccessful marketing or promotional method to the complete termination. Regardless of what failure looks like in this particular context, it has an impact on the psyche of the self-employed individual who started or took over the business.
According to Bruno, McQuarrie, and Torgrimson in an article published in Journal of Business Venturing, the self-employed appear to have an emotional relationship with their business. More specifically, the motivation for managing one’s business spans beyond personal profit, into loyalty to a product, loyalty to a market and customers, and the need to prove one’s self. When you consider these elements of this emotional relationship, it becomes clear, first, why failure elicits such a huge response in business and second, why the way in which you recover is much more important than the failure itself. So, how do you cope? How do you recover?
One of the best ways to cope with failure in business is to make a conscious decision to learn from it. In a 2003 article published in Academy of Management Review, Dean Shepherd suggests, “learning from business failure occurs when you can use the information available about why the business failed to revise your existing knowledge of how to manage your own business effectively.” This requires the ability to stare failure in the face and accept that you are still a student even when you run the business. It further requires an ability to “revise assumptions about the consequences” of previous decisions, actions, and omissions. When you can approach your failure in an evaluative manner, you are more likely to have a successful outcome.
2. Anticipate and Rehearse
“Don’t make the same mistake twice”. This warning cannot be echoed loud enough in business. When you’ve done something wrong or insufficient a first time it should prompt you to be more careful the second time around. In other words, you should anticipate an error; rehearse with that error in mind and control for it. Many entrepreneurs have had to test and retest prototypes continuously to ensure it is failure proof. Sometimes this means getting out of your comfort zone and being completely transparent. The more you dissect your product or service piece by piece and ask yourself “how can this fail”, the closer you get towards a product or service you can proudly stand behind in success. This will not make you failure proof, but it can certainly minimize the outcome of same and teach you more about yourself as a business owner.
3. Think Positively
One of the immediate responses to failure is negativity. A close second is doubt. These two devils can drive your business into hell if you allow them to manifest and percolate. When you’ve come face to face with failure, take a few minutes to cry and scream if you have to. But once those minutes have expired, commend yourself for your effort, feed your mind with positive affirmations, and most importantly, saturate yourself with acceptance. Accept that the one thing that makes you most like any other business is your susceptibility to failure. Once you’ve acknowledged that, immediately begin rebuilding, modifying, or changing your direction.
4. Start Again
Some of the biggest companies that exist today have failed hundreds of times before getting their big breaks; Apple and Disney are prime examples. Failing just might be the answered prayer you didn’t know you need. It can challenge you into success. Don’t pressure yourself with deadlines if your product isn’t ready. Take your time with your craft. If you love it, you’ll be tender and starting over will only allow you to become more intimate with your business. Embrace a fresh start.
Failure is a part of life and that life doesn’t stop when you acquire a business. Instead, it becomes much greater. Consequently, your failures will increase, but so will your successes.