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The first rule of business: embrace failure


The world of business, in my opinion, is complex yet basic, exciting yet exhausting. Often it presents problems and challenges that make us question our self belief and capabilities.

For those who’ve yet to experience running or managing a business, it would be difficult to appreciate just what it takes to launch a new venture or to successfully run a profitable organisation.

The traditional rules of an employee do not apply to business owners; idealistic expectations are replaced with realistic goals and challenges.

Once upon a time…

A number of years ago, aged 19, I decided to launch headfirst into a business venture. I knew nothing about business, nothing about management, and very little about financial planning.

What I had were dreams of business riches, of success at a young age. I would often imagine my life a few years down the track, when I’d head my self-started company, now a national success story. I would drive an expensive sports car and people would recognise me as that young guy who made millions from his first business.

Suffice to say, the realities of business were quite different.

Don’t get me wrong, dreaming is important. We must have goals to strive towards and dreams to keep us going during the tough times. Similarly, we must ensure we also keep check of what’s possible and realistic. As I’ve experienced over the years, reality can be a cruel teacher. However, with the right approach and the right attitude it’s possible to become successful in business.

The highs and lows of business

Having started two companies from nothing, turning ideas into profitable ventures that eventually failed, I have experienced both significant highs and lows.

At times I was on top of the world, at the head of a business with several employees, money was coming in the door and I had commitment from clients.

Then there were moments of anger and frustration, spiralling into depression and self loathing that encroached on my personal life and relationships.

Despite all the crap that goes with running a business, I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re determined, persistent and strong willed, business can give you a rush and excitement that compares with the adrenaline of extreme sports. It can give you control of your destiny and set you up financially for life. The key is to be patient, to not rush, and to plan your moves strategically and with intent.

The ‘if onlys’ of business

I often think to myself ‘If only I knew what I know now back when I was 19, my life and ventures would have, most likely, turned out very differently’.

But alas, one cannot turn back time. All you can do from failure is to reflect and learn. And make sure that, next time round, you don’t go down the same path and make the same mistakes.

Failing in business has made me acutely aware of my knowledge and capabilities, and has given me more valuable lessons than a university degree in business ever will.

The harsh reality is that most businesses fail within a few short years of starting up. As such, the first rule I have in business is to embrace failure. You’ll no doubt go through some tough times that will test your commitment, and eventually you’ll be faced with two choices:

  1. Get frustrated about the situation, magnifying your failure and causing you to experience significant stress and pressure or;
  2. Embrace the situation, use it to fuel your drive to challenge and conquer the problem facing your business.

And you know what? Even if you can’t conquer your problem and the business folds, you will have learnt valuable lessons that will help you succeed in your next venture.

In the words of the wise Buddha: ‘Let failure be a lesson, let suffering be your strength, let love overcome all your barriers’.

Peter Spinda is an entrepreneur and business writer. He runs an online blog at www.realitiesofbusiness.com and teaches others about business principles and skills.