How does the entrepreneur deal with business failure? A business failure can make you feel like a failure, and that feeling if not controlled can be depressing. You have to realise that business failure is not the end of the world.
The year was 2010 and the month was December. It was a Saturday morning and a very low point in my life. I sat and struggled to hold back the tears. If I were superstitious I would have assumed I was being bewitched.
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Let us step back two years before this date and you’ll see me successfully running a thriving technology business. We did hardware sales and business was very good. The money simply rolled in. We were considering additional revenue so we launched repairs and onsite services unit.
We realised only after starting the repairs business that spare part shortages or unavailability were a key detriment to us completing our repair works in 72 hours – a guarantee we had made to our customers. The entrepreneur in me looked into the problem and found a business opportunity. What if I brought in the scarce parts and supplied the market?
Enter Alibaba.com. 8–9 years ago, Alibaba was used by many Chinese companies to perpetuate fraud. They have since removed such companies and put in place several fraud prevention processes. At the time, we found what we taught was a reputable company and sent money to them. They never sent the goods. Two more fraudulent companies later, we found the one that finally sent goods.
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I can imagine you are thinking: How could you do that? When there is something called letter of credit, verification of companies, etc. Well, things aren’t always as straight forward as one would expect. Anyway, the parts we eventually got had a high defect rate and between sending them back for replacement or repairs, the profit margins were wiped out.
Profits from the sales business were good and we had overdraft facilities with a bank and a term loan from another. Effectively, I was under the illusion we didn’t have money problems. I got to the office one morning and realised we had no money in the bank, no inventory, and no goods in transit. We were broke and I had debts to service. I became desperate and was looking for short cuts. I threw out the fundamentals of business that I knew so well and invested in ventures outside my forte. At this point I was investing with even more borrowed money and that Saturday morning was when I realised my investments had gone burst. No money, no business, no credibility, I had failed.
Looking back now, I am happy I failed. I am happy I mismanaged money and happy I took such stupid risks. I am quick to tell people that there are two types of entrepreneurs – those who have failed and those who will fail; those who have lost money and those who will lose money; those who get up seven times when life hits them six times and those who stay on the floor when life hits them.
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Ways To Deal With Business Failure
My question to you is: What kind of entrepreneur are you? Regardless of the group you belong to, the following tips would prove useful to you.
Accept The Reality
Maybe you used to drive a Range Rover or live in a really posh neighbourhood; maybe spending 50k on a Friday night or buying 90k worth of Brazilian hair was no big deal but now even 5k seems like a lot of money. Well, it is what it is. It is okay to feel sorry for yourself but don’t get robed into self-pity. That things are the way they are today doesn’t mean they will remain the way they are.
What Are You Telling Yourself
I found the courage to tell myself the situation failed. It wasn’t me who failed, but the situation. I told myself I was still a superfly, super sharp, super-connected entrepreneur that simply got into a bad situation. I told myself the situation didn’t define me and it was the situation’s loss. Call it self-delusion and you may be right, but I needed to send reinforced positive signals to my brain.
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Find Something To Be Grateful For
Gratitude forces you to change focus, it forces you to look at what’s working in your life versus all the several things that seem not to be working. God is no sadist, everything can’t be screwed up in your life at the same time. Make a list every day of ten things you are grateful for. Do this every day or every time you feel down. It doesn’t matter if the items on the list stay the same every day. The exercise is to set your emotions and attitude right. Avoid blaming anyone and hold no ill feelings or thoughts even towards those who may have deliberately sabotaged you. Yes, hard, but doable.
Understand Your Sphere Of Influence
I didn’t know how long it would take me to get out of the mess I had created. I didn’t know how my creditors would take the news of my bankruptcy. Also, I couldn’t tell if I would be able to pay my child’s school fees or meet up with rent or maintain my car but I could control my decision to stay positive and not wallow in self-pity.
I could control my decision not to blame anyone and accept the situation as it was. And I could control my reactions to my creditors, accept the loss of certain privileges, control the thoughts of running outside the country rather than face the issues. I understood my sphere of influence and could draw a line between what I could or could not control.
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Pick Up The Pieces
Start again if you have to. For me, I had to pick up a temp job. This allowed me to build some financial stability, pay off some of the debts, and rediscover my passion for entrepreneurship. Took me two years to get back fully in the game (entrepreneurship) but I did and it has been amazing since.
Learn Your Lessons
The only time you really fail is when you fail to learn anything from your failures. I learned a whole lot from my business failure and there are mistakes I will never make again. Not saying I still won’t fail, I will and it’s no curse but it won’t be by what previously caused me to fail.
Looking back to that Saturday morning, if someone had told me that experience would significantly impart my future or I would ever remember it or even dare to write about it or that it would help someone not feel too bad about their own failures, I would have doubted it.
It’s no cliché, tough times don’t last, but tough people do. You are built tough, the sooner you believe that the better for you.
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