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Fail Your Way to Small Business Success

The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” Thomas J. Watson

No one likes to fail. So when you start your own small business and it doesn’t work out, it’s a difficult pill to swallow. I know because I’ve had my share of business failures. After sacrificing so much of your time, energy, passion and resources, a failed business venture can make you feel like crawling under the covers and never coming out again.

Rather than being a negative, failure may be your ticket to success, according to many experts. Whenever you fail in business or in life, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. The business mistakes I’ve made were costly, but they taught me more about how to be successful than any classes or seminars I’ve taken or any articles I’ve read. It was part of my journey.

Many successful entrepreneurs have faced miserable failures and rebounded to build successful empires. For example, Henry Ford was broke after five failed business ventures and then he came back to launch the Ford Motor Company. Walt Disney was fired as a newspaper editor because he lacked imagination and had no good ideas. Sony founder, Akio Morita, got off to a lackluster start with the company’s first product - a rice cooker - which only sold 100 units. Undaunted, Morita and his partners pushed forward to build a multi-billion-dollar company.

So when you face failure, you have an important choice to make. You can feel sorry for yourself and throw in the towel or you can shift your attitude and view the experience as a learning opportunity. Adopting a positive mindset about failure is a vital tool for entrepreneurs. After trying hundreds of times to invent the light bulb, Thomas Edison was quoted as saying that he hadn’t failed in all his attempts, he had simply learned hundreds of ways not to invent the light bulb. If Edison hadn’t been willing to fail time and time again, the light bulb may have never been invented - at least not by him.

Because launching your own business is risky and therefore the changes for failure are significant, here are a few important points to keep in mind.

  1. Don’t fear failure. The only people in this world who don’t fail now and then are the ones who aren’t doing anything. Failure is a part of business and if you live in fear of it, then you aren’t making the bold steps you need to make to build your business. As someone once said, in order to succeed you must be willing to fail.
  2. Don’t play the blame game. When something goes wrong its human nature to point fingers and place blame. What good does that do? What’s done is done and you can’t change the result. However, you can dissect what transpired and learn what not to do in the future, just as Edison did.
  3. Fail fast. As I noted in the beginning of this blog, failure can be a devastating and traumatic experience. To bounce back and be successful, you have to let go of the negative feelings associated with failure. Carrying that baggage around impedes your ability to build the success you deserve. So give yourself a reasonable amount of time to grieve, and then get over it.

I started this blog with a quote and I’ll end it with one more as food for thought. "Unless you're willing to have a go, fail miserably, and have another go, success won't happen." Phillip Adams.

Have you already experienced business failures? What did you learn? What could you share with others?