“I cannot afford to make the same mistakes that you did with your businesses!” This was the first statement that my friend made to me after reaching out to discuss her new business idea. I couldn’t help but laugh as I thought back to the many mistakes that I have made throughout my entrepreneurial journey. I told her that I was happy to share my experiences, but that if she was serious about starting a business, she needed to get comfortable with the harsh realities of being an entrepreneur. One of these realities is likelihood of mistakes and the possibility of failure.
While learning from other people’s mistakes is important, the sooner you recognize that you are bound to make mistakes along the way the better off you will be while building your small business. When I started embracing my entrepreneurial spirit while working for the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, I loved reaching out to successful business owners to discuss their journeys. It didn’t take long for me to realize that most of them had quite a story to tell; every story was filled with it’s own challenges, setbacks, bumps in the road, successes and failures along the way. For some, it was their own failures that helped guide them to the right answers, and ultimately attributed to their success.
I am a perfect example. I started my first business when I was twenty-eight years old. Like most twenty-something year olds, I thought I knew it all and there was no way my business would fail. I had a business partner and I was confident that together, we would make it work no matter what.
I learned a lot of valuable lessons while trying to build that business (I’ll share the three big ones in a minute). I discovered that while passion is important, it is not enough when you don’t channel passion into executing the right business model. I also found out (yes, the hard way) how challenging it can be to have a business partner and knew the questions that I would ask someone if I embarked on a future business partnership. Fortunately, I did find the right partner the next time around, but only because of the experiences that I went through with my first endeavor.
If building a business were easy, everyone would do it, right? Succeeding as an entrepreneur means accepting that sometimes, failure is an option, and a likely one at that. Successful entrepreneurs educate themselves every day and learn from other people’s mistakes, but they get comfortable with steering mistakes into fortune. Like John Maxwell says in his book Failing Forward, don’t be afraid to fail during your journey. And when you do fail, brace yourself and remember these three things:
1. Become More Awesome
Encountering a failure while building your business is not a free pass to your very own pity party. Take some time to figure out what you have learned from the mistake and develop an action plan to mitigate the risk of making that mistake again.
For example, when Jenn and I started Marketing Divaz, we got right to work on obtaining clients. Like most business owners starting out, we did not have the right processes in place during our sales cycle. We would typically meet with a prospect, discuss their business goals and decide how we could help them with their marketing. We would go back to our office and spend hours working on a custom proposal. After months of doing business this way, we finally realized that we were not only allowing our clients to dictate what we would do for them, we were also so focused on doing whatever it took to win the business that we ended up not charging enough for some of our services and ended up loosing money.
Although I have had multiple conversations with other entrepreneurs regarding both of these issues and read a variety of books, including The E-Myth, I still managed to make these mistakes. Instead of beating ourselves up over it, Jenn and I identified the problem and took action on fixing it. Our sales process is simple, easy and we no longer work on proposals until one o’clock in the morning. In fact, it was the mistakes we made in our business that ultimately led us to our merger with Juicy Results at the perfect time.
2. Less Talking. More Doing.
I get a phone call at least once a month from a friend of mine who is building an advertising agency. He is one of the most creative guys I know and I always appreciate our conversations. Every time I speak with him he shares yet another brilliant idea. I believe that if he implemented even one or two of the ideas he has shared with me over the years, he would be in a much different place. One day, after he explained another strategy he was contemplating trying, I finally asked him: “You tell me about all of these awesome ideas, but why don’t you ever try this stuff and see how it goes?” In a roundabout way, the answer simply was that he was afraid it wouldn’t work.
I get that it is uncomfortable to try something new. Putting something out there without knowing if it will work or how it will be perceived can be stressful, but think about what you might be missing out on by holding back all of the time. One of my favorite quotes from Seth Godin is: “The only thing worse than starting something and failing is not starting something.” Even if your effort is not a success, go back to point number one: take what you learn from the experience and be more awesome.
3. Be patient.
This one is a toughie. We all want everything to happen instantly. We start a new marketing campaign and hope the leads come flooding in over night. We introduce a new product or service to our business and we want every one of our clients and prospects to jump on board with it. Having patience in the process of building your small business will help you be a more effective entrepreneur. When mistakes are made and you face a failure, be patient and confident that although it may take time, you will figure out your next move.
You started your business for a reason. Go back to that feeling you got when the light bulb went off in your head and work towards finding that feeling again every day while understanding that sometimes despite your valiant efforts, failure is an option. Success takes risks, and those are the risks that will help you stand out from the crowd and help you grow.
Do you have a lesson to share with your fellow entrepreneurs about a failure that you encountered in your business? Share below and spread your gems of knowledge that underly those so called mistakes.
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