What's the number one lesson you've learned from entrepreneurship?

What's the most important lesson you've learned from being an entrepreneur, or observing other entrepreneurs? How have you succeeded in fulfilling your main goals? How have you dealt with small failures along the way?

Many of the experiments I've been conducting to try and figure out to best service clients have been failing. I'd also like to know the best way to deal with these failures in order to more quickly reach success.

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10

Everyone looks at failure as such a bad thing.. people really need a new name for it to get rid of the negative connotation. Failure is progress. Once upon a time you had nothing, no data, no clue, then you tried and failed and learned that that's how *not* to do it. Then you got up and walked and talked.

What I've learned from being an entrepreneur is that you just need to wake up and do it - - whatever it is you do, you need to do it perfectly every day whether people tell you it's going to work or not because "reality" isn't the mother of invention, creativity and will-power and persistence is.

I've succeeded in fulfilling my main goals so far by first saying what I want to do, how I'm going to do it, and then doing the work from the time I open my eyes in the morning until the time I close them.

A company I was with when I was much younger wanted to build an internal training department. I suggested we interview some training companies to potentially help us and so we could learn about training failures since we had never failed at this before (aka - what to avoid). My boss just stared and did not understand why you would want to learn about someones failures.

I completely agree with your suggestion, James. It's critically important from nearly every standpoint to find out why failure is occurring, doing research (as you suggested), creating a hypothesis( if not several), testing, and analyzing the data. Data when collected properly doesn't lie, as I'm sure any good business person would recognize.

I guess that situation speaks volumes about your ex-boss.

7

"you miss 100% of the shots you never take" - Wayne Gretzy said. That's number one lesson.

Thorsten

6

Entrepreneurship is not a solo event. Unfortunately, many young entrepreneurs believe that it is and as a result, overwork themselves. I am not talking about hard work being bad.... I am talking about the wrong work. To illustrate, I new a doctor friend that was expanding his practice...adding new offerings such as sleep therapy, blood lab, etc. Unfortunately, revenue was declining, his practice was shrinking, etc. He came to me for help so I asked him two questions: 1) What makes you money? His answer was that every patient he saw resulted in increased revenue. (2) When did you take a business start-up or business strategy course in you curriculum to becoming a doctor? The answer was "never". So he was working hard at all the wrong work. By not seeing as many patients, revenue began dropping. Entrepreneurs must surround themselves with others that augment their unique thinking and working style. As an entrepreneur myself, I suffered early on from the same issue, thinking I could do it all. And every new idea? well that became my new idea, my passion, my rabbit hole that sucked the energy away from what I really should have been doing. The small failures go unnoticed for a while..or at least pushed to the side. I usually takes a big Oh Oh moment to create that wake-up call. I went back to those small failures and saw the pattern, learned from the issues and put in place, alarm systems to make me stop, pause and think before reacting.
In regards to your experiments in servicing clients, what is the definition of a failure? I have done a lot of customer relationship consulting and find that usually, service is truly horrible (from the perspective of the customer) or service is truly horrible (from the expectation of the owner/entrepreneur). So stop and pause a moment and reflect first on your expectations and then on what customers need (first) and want (second). How are your expectations and the expectations of the customers aligned? You may just find out that your failures are not failures at all. I also suggest that you have a trusted second do the work....do the analysis....evaluate your and the customers' answers to the questions. And when you flinch because you don't like the answer, remember that you wanted another view, another opinion.
Dealing with "failures" can be problematic because of the emotion attached to the business. I recommend a short abbreviated process for controling that emoiion and dealing with the problem directly. Try the following:
1) Stop! Put your brain on a pause cycle and dwell on the definition of the failure. Is it really a failure? What defines it as a failure (list only the top 3 characteristics).
2) Ok, so it is a failure! What is the mechanism that failed? Was it people, process, equipment, ???? What is the likely hood that the failure will repeat on the next customer service event?
3) Let's assume that it is a disaster and will most likely happen again. What process change must take place to avoid the failure's trigger mechanism?
4) Put in changes and watch them like a hawk. Don't be distracted by other small slips...you have to focus on this big one.
5) On a routine basis, review your logs on issues, causes, triggers, new processes/fixes put in place, their efficacy and if still required.

Over time, if you don't weed the garden, the fixes will become a hodgepodge of things to do, the relevance and purpose of those things will be lost, and you will actually be worse off than before.
Good luck and thanks for the opportunity to provide my insight.

6

Never give up! Goals are guideposts in moving forward. As one is achieved then a new one in put in place to keep improving and growing the business.

Failures are part of business, no matter how well constructed and reviewed a business plan is, upon first contact with reality or a change in the business climate there will be items that do not work as planned or client/customer reactions are different than anticipated. Take the feedback and go back and determine what the customer really wants as opposed to what it was expected. Failures will make your business plan stronger as long as you take the time to determine what failed, why it failed and what you can do to correct it.

Success is achieved daily. The moment you think you have everything on cruise control, something will happen that upsets the process or business. Always keep looking for those threats and opportunities for your company and industry.

6

After failure you have a choice:
1. Deeply regret your failure and focus on how it all went wrong and how poorly you did and who else is impacted by your failure, or
2. Deeply regret your failure and analyze what and where things went wrong. Integrate this insight into your future ventures.
It may sound trite to learn from our mistakes, but in reality, how often do we really analyze and learn?

As for figuring out the best service for your clients, try asking them:
1. On a scale of 1-5, how did we do?
2. What was the best thing about our service?
3. What would you have liked us to do differently?
Let your client know that you'll take their input very seriously and that their suggestions will make a difference.
I recommend you ask this after every client service event.

Good luck; I hope you find this helpful.

Candis

Just reading this, a bit late. So glad to be reminded of this. You are right that doing some analysis is critical and we often spend more time in self-pity than learning and using those lessons to propel forward. Thanks.

Anonymous User
5

I have found that you just need to continue your pursuit related to your business. Failures will come and also clients will change especially if your connection to the company moves on. I find that if I stick to my values, honesty and integrity, the opportunities do come and yes there can be some slow times, which in the end are not all bad.

These slow times give you pause to reflect and see if there is something that may need to change in your approach, maybe even in your reach, i.e. scope of the business.

And yes, as entrepreneurs, we do make mistakes, we just need to learn from our mistakes.

Some advice I was given years ago by a mentor was that we make mistakes, and we may make them even twice. It is when we make them three times that we have not learned from the tasks at hand.

5

The very essence of entrepreneurship is a trial and error process; anyone who tells you otherwise is deluding themselves, or currently writing a business plan to raise funds...So, experimentation is not only to be expected but fully embraced. When you say "deal" with "failure" it suggests an unanticipated outcome, which to me is counter to the mindset you should have, especially in the early stages of your venture as you try and figure out a viable business model. Drawing from the lean movement, how you want to think about "failure" is as a non-validating outcome of a hypothesis / guess you had about some aspect of your business model. The insights you gain from this process help you tweak or make a pivot away from a direction that was not as promising as you anticipated. The key is to engage in this process as quickly, cheaply, and efficiently as possible so that you can leverage your resources over many possible iterations until it "clicks" (or doesn't). The only "bad" failure is the all or nothing variety, where you don't really test your assumptions until you complete a plan, raise money, and finally actually engage stakeholders. That kind of "kaboom" is hard to recover from but definitely avoidable if you challenge yourself and your ego to a series of incremental tests of your vision as opposed to taking one big leap of faith...

5

I fully support the lean methodology approach by Eric Reis and Steve Blank, where they treat "failure" as feedback and experimentation and an opportunity to pivot to achieve your goals. They celebrate "pivots away from failure not failure". This mindset change for entrepreneurs really works as you attempt to search for a repeatable, scaleable business model as we all do in start ups rather than tocus on the more predictable execution of a proven business model in a larger corporate.

5

Bryan, in my experience you have to fail in order to succeed. It is part of the learning process. Do not get discouraged, just keep being creative and trying other paths. That is what it means to be an entrepreneur. You get knocked around a lot but true entrepreneurs just keep getting back up. Here is a piece I wrote on this very topic: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/81130

Good luck!

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