As entrepreneurs we have so many expectations of what owning a business is going to be like. While it’s important to set goals, you also have to ground those goals in reality. One of the realities of running your own business is that you will make mistakes – either large or small, so it’s important to be prepared to learn from those mistakes so you can grow and be successful in the long-term.
There are so many stats out there that talk about how so many small businesses fail within the first five years… blah blah blah… I get it. Starting and building a business is hard. For most people, it’s one of the hardest things you will ever do. For today, I want to focus on the positive side of things so you can avoid becoming a statistic that instills fear in people.
So how do you prepare yourself to learn from those mistakes? Here are 6 things you can do to make sure you are getting ready for long-term success instead of just short-term failure.
LEARN FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES
While it’s important for you to make your own mistakes, you also shouldn’t ignore those that have come before you. There are plenty of stories of entrepreneurs who have full on failed or made a very public mistake and then come back to succeed in the long-term. While not every story will apply directly to your situation, you should look for the following things:
- What was the fallout with customers?
- What steps did the business take to overcome their challenge?
- What did the founder do?
- How long did it take for the business to react if it was a very public PR nightmare?
- How did competitors respond? Did they capitalize on the failure? Did they acknowledge it or not address it at all?
A lot of entrepreneurs have shared their stories publicly, but you can also have more personal discussions with a mentor, coach, or industry peer who will share some of the challenges they faced as they launched and grew their business.
Use this knowledge as a roadmap for yourself to at least create some sort of contingency plan.
SET YOUR EGO ASIDE
This is a tough one. You have put so much into running your business that it becomes a part of you. Accepting that your business (and you) may not be perfect can be a challenge for many entrepreneurs. First of all… Stop taking failure so personally. If you let it get personal it will stop you from succeeding.
However, this is also a reminder that you don’t know everything. None of us knows everything. And not every idea is a good idea! Surround yourself with people who will challenge you and the way you think – not people who just capitulate and say yes to everything. It’s OK to ask for help and it’s definitely OK to change your mind to incorporate new ideas. You would be surprised how your business will shift and grow if you let it. That means getting out of the way.
FIGURE OUT WHAT WENT WRONG
If something does go wrong – and it will – have a plan in place. Earlier, I mentioned a contingency plan. That just means that you have identified things that may go wrong and identified steps you will take if they do. Get specific. Have specific processes in place that you can use without hesitation when you need them.
As part of your contingency plan, you should always debrief to figure out what happened. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
- What was I trying to do when things fell apart?
- What happened? (Get specific and go over the details.)
- Could the mistake have been avoided? (Identify specific actions that led to the mistake.)
- What can I do differently next time – if anything? (Identify a different approach if it could have been avoided.)
SET SPECIFIC GOALS
Goal setting… SMART goals… You hear people talk about it all the time. The problem is many entrepreneurs don’t do it. Or they may do it, but it’s just an exercise on paper and it’s not put into practice. There are so many workshops, business development programs, and entrepreneurship accelerators out there that can be extremely valuable. What I find is that a business will go through these programs and then not implement anything they learned.
Reality check. Any strategy you build and implement needs to be based on the goals you set for yourself. Writing them down and then not revisiting them regularly is like putting counterfeit money in a piggy bank and expecting to be able to pay for things with what you have saved.
Do the work. Implement it in your business.
One of the things I talk about a lot is the fact that entrepreneurs need to get in the habit of celebrating EVERYTHING. Progress is progress, no matter how small. When you celebrate the small wins, the big ones seem even better. Plus, the feeling of accomplishment will drive you forward to keep reaching for your goals.
For some people, change is just a way of life. For others change is something to fear. As entrepreneurs, we need to learn to embrace change and get comfortable with being uncomfortable because things sometimes change daily.
When things don’t go right the first time, we need to change our approach.
While mistakes and failures can be scary as entrepreneurs, if we approach them in the right way, they can make us stronger over time – and help our businesses grow.
Candace Huntly is the Founder at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in media relations, influencer marketing, organic community engagement, content, and adapting strategies for any sized business – large or small. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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A version of this article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications blog.