Career Advice/ Caregiving/Family/ Entrepreneurship

3 Things I Learned from Failure

career failure

There’s an unspoken rule in business: don’t show any weakness.

Strike up a convo with other entrepreneurs at an industry conference – everyone’s “crushing it”, about to take majority market share.

Sit at a board meeting – everyone’s organizational revenue has “tripled” (yet the economy’s still in the tanker…).

Chat with business professors – everyone left the “real” world mid-career (and mid-Recession) by choice (not necessity).

No one’s shooting straight. No one’s transparent. No one’s honest.

Why?

Because being honest about the crapper quarter we had or having an entire division wiped out by competition would make us look weak…or would it?

Anyone that’s got any business experience will attest that everyone that’s ever done anything fails.

Failure is an essential component of success; some even describe it as “the stepping stones to success”.

Business is the business of trial and error.

Even the entrepreneurial greats – like Richard Branson or Sara Blakely – don’t know for sure if their new business idea or project will work; they have to try it and see.

Failures provide us with direction on what to do and not to do. They help navigate our entrepreneurial journey – guiding us on which direction to move in, like the North Star.

I’ve failed – a lot – this past year. While it’s tempting to get discouraged by the things that just “didn’t work out” like I’d hoped, I’m reminded that there’s much to learn from my failures and that failures aren’t an end all. Instead, failures simply mean I’m getting closer and closer to where I want to be – both professionally and personally.

So here are three things I learned from failing this year:

Can’t do it alone

I like doing things for myself. I’ve always been that way. For the majority of my life, I felt as if I didn’t have a choice. No one was watching out for me, I couldn’t count on anyone, and the “system” that’s supposed to ensure welfare of minors failed me over and over. Thus, my takeaway from a not so awesome start was: People will hurt you. You can’t count on others. If you want something you have to do it all yourself.

While such theories may have been proven true due to extreme circumstance in my early life, entrepreneurial success is never – ever – accomplished as a solo mission.

You can’t do this alone. You need people [and I need people] to reach your business goals.

Mentors, colleagues, sponsors, cheerleaders, teachers – we need them all (and them some).  By opening ourselves (and our business + career) up to others, we can alleviate the sinking feeling of carrying the world on our shoulders and glean valuable inspiration and information from people we trust.

Some peeps have a great ready-made round-up of supporters; others have to seek out and develop their own network of essential people to connect with. Regardless of your starting point – you need people to reach the desired finish line. Don’t believe the egotistical lie that successful people “do it all by themselves” – nobody’s that tough (plus it’s just dumb).

People will take advantage

Beginning of 2016 ushered in a life changing experience where I almost lost the person I love more than life itself. Months in the hospital, caregiver exhaustion, financial ruin following mountains of medical bills had me running on fumes.

I thought my clients would understand. I thought the people I did business with would cut me some slack. Instead, many of them took advantage of the situation by defaulting on bills (it’s hard to collect on accounts when your loved one’s life is hanging in the balance) and bad mouthing my business reputation at community and industry events.

Returning to work months later, I spent thousands on legal fees to collect on outstanding bills, and was greeted by hurtful rumors regarding my family started by (formerly) trusted colleagues.

​I was shocked.

Talk about kicking you when you’re down. 

Many people are like chickens – when one of them starts of bleed, the others pick and pick and pick until its dead.

Yowzers…bet that’s an analogy you won’t hear in your business classes.

I no longer do business with the professionals that “picked” at me. Several of them have reached out since, begging me to reinstate their company as a client, and while the money (could) be nice, I told them to take a hike. Not all clients are good for your business – and those that kick others when their down are not good for (any) business.

What worked last year, may not work this year (and that’s okay!)

As I mentioned, the year 2016 started off with a not-so-awesome bang for both my business and personal life. Running a business from hospital waiting room didn’t (initially) work out so well.

Clients didn’t understand the inability to make quarterly meetings, rescheduling seminars turned into contractual dispute, and fellow board members sent me nasty e-mails about “how I was shirking my committee duties”.

Not fun stuff. 

Couple weeks of trying to juggle a life or death situation + meeting unreasonable demands of clients and colleagues, I decided my business model had to change.

What had worked so well the year prior wasn’t working this year.

I moved to a 100% virtual service platform – no more face-to-face client meetings, no more (unproductive) in-person board discussions, no more last minute consults (aka “tech support”) with clients that just “couldn’t figure out” how to use Outlook e-mail.

Moving forward, my business would only work on projects that could work (well) with the waiting room working environment.

Innovating my business model meant taking a profit hit for six consecutive months. A few old school clients left, but hindsight 20/20 – they weren’t missed. I had a business that worked for me and my life, enabling me to be there for my loved one both financially and emotionally.

Win – win. 

When challenges crop up in your business (like my inability to make client board meetings), you have two options:

  1. View it as a total business destroyer.
  2. View it as an opportunity to create something even better.

Successful people go with the later.

Innovation is everything.

What have you learned from failure?

Share your “failures” turned “successes” in the comments below!

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