I was interviewed recently for a business radio show about enterprising mindset and one of the questions asked was “Why do entrepreneurs start again even after failure? Do they learn from business failure?” Now I don’t talk very often about my first business but I think it demonstrates the enterprise mindset really well. So here goes.
When I was 19 I found myself in a new town without a job. I had been working as a nanny and then a maternity nurse in London and then as a travel rep in Spain. But back in the UK I was struggling to find work outside of London. When I think back, I wasn’t looking for the right thing; maybe I didn’t know what the right thing was. To cut a long story short, a new relationship had taken me to a new town with no requirements for nannies or travel reps. I tried the local children’s nursery but being dyslexic they questioned whether I could really do the job. They pointed out that the local college trained 30 new nannies a year and many of them couldn’t find work locally and struggled to know how to find jobs in other cities.
The first idea for a start up business was formed
I was able to find these nannies and then connect them with agencies and families in major cities so that they could find work. Perfect: I had the connections, I knew how the system worked and I knew what families were looking for. What could go wrong. As it transpired the main issue was how hard it is to find customers and how much work goes into business for little return in the early days. In reality I knew very little of recruiting nannies and even less about running a business.
I learnt from business failure
I don’t look at this experience as sad or a failure but part of my education into being a business owner. I learnt loads in that time about marketing, sales, customers and accounting. It also showed me that business isn’t difficult once you know what you’re doing, it’s the knowing what you’re doing that takes effort. For me it was about going back to college and then university to learn. But like many entrepreneurs I wasn’t put off the idea of running my own business.
Setting up a business after previous failure
Some of the most successful businesses and business people in the world had failures in the past. It’s said in America you are not a business success until you have had a business failure. On the whole we are rewarded for success and not failure but it may just be possible that failure enables you to learn and be even more successful next time.
Having had one false start at business ownership I know I was much more willing to fight the second time around for what I wanted to achieve. I also had a better understanding of running a business, how hard it can be and also what I needed to concentrate on.
Having spoken to others who failed at business then went on to build a successful business, one thing that drove them all was the determination not to fail again. Of course that could mean that they would keep going even when they had a poor idea, but hopefully they will carry on and correct any poor ideas as they go.
But like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose first business Traf-O-data was a flop, it is clearly possible to pick your socks up and try again. In fact, failure is part of enterprise: the key to turning failure into success is learning from your mistakes.
Learning from business failure
I really hope you haven’t had a huge business failure, lost everything and find yourself starting again. I know people who have done this and and it has taken huge amount of strength and faith in themselves that it won’t happen again because they have learnt from it. However, it is possible that you have had some failures in your business, maybe you tried an idea, product or service which you invested in but it never took off or everything is going well but you are finding it hard to increase profits. However you are struggling you need to consider how you learn and develop as a person as well as how your business learns and grows.
The key to learning in this instance is critical self-reflection and analysis of the mistake or problem. This needs to be done with an open mind, and keeping emotion away from it. This is about pure head not heart considerations. This can often be difficult to do alone. We can either blame the situation or others, or become too self-critical and find it hard to pick ourselves back up.
A key to avoiding this is to consider your experience with someone else who can help you be more critical in your evaluation. Look for a mentor or mastermind group who can support you on your business journey. For more information about my mentoring services click here.