Nobody enjoys failure, but everyone experiences it at least a few times in their life and especially as a small business owner.
While it’s one of those things that most people like to gloss over, failing is actually a hugely valuable experience, as long as you know how to make the most of it.
Leigh Ashton, co-founder of Sasudi, stresses the importance of bouncing back from a disappointment as a small business;
Reset your mindset
As with many things when running a small business, the key lies in getting your mindset right before doing anything else.
Don’t immediately throw yourself into the next project or wallow in the emotions that usually come with it. Instead, remind yourself; you can’t control what happens, but you can control your reaction, and that’s hugely powerful.
Now let’s be clear, it’s not like you can just will yourself to be unaffected by painful things like failure. But you have 100% control over how you process that experience, which means that you can choose to let it throw you, or you can choose to take it as the learning opportunity that it is and use it to move forwards.
A few very important things to remember here:
Just because you’ve experienced a failure doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It just means that one of your strategies failed. This is absolutely crucial to remember.
If you’re not failing at least occasionally, you’re doing something wrong. You might not be trying hard enough or you might be stuck in your comfort zone.
Some of your best learnings will come from things not going to plan, so although failure is painful, remember the big picture.
You’re in great company when you fail. Some of the most successful people in the world have failed spectacularly and repeatedly, including Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Warren Buffett.
Diagnose the failure
Once you’ve got your mindset sorted out, you can start to look more technically at what happened, good and bad.
Don’t just write the whole experience off by only focusing on what went wrong; you need to recognise and applaud what went right too. This will keep you from getting discouraged. It will also help you recognise the strategies you can use again.
Asking questions will really help you as you go through this process, so set some time aside and ask yourself:
- How clear were my intentions before I started?
- How focused was I throughout?
- Did I allow enough time and budget?
- Did I need outside help? If so, did I ask for it? Did I get it? Did I get enough of it?
- What assumptions did I make and how correct were they?
- Did I receive advice from others?
- Did I listen to that advice?
- Should I have ignored that advice?
- Scoring out of ten, how close did I get to what I wanted?
- What did I need to do to have made it a score of 10?
What’s the real lesson?
Most people stop after working through the good and the bad of a situation, but there’s often a deeper lesson to be learned from failure. So ask yourself, what could the real learning here be?
Think beyond the surface level things like skills, habits, or actions, and try to see if there’s anything that you can learn about the deeper levels of yourself, like your beliefs and your subconscious thoughts.
One good way to do this is to set aside a period of time, at least an hour or so, finding a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. Grab a pen and plenty of paper and ask yourself, “What do I really need to learn here?”
Write down anything that comes to your mind, even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Don’t edit or censor yourself, be completely honest.
Keep writing until you’ve finished everything you can think of, then wait and think. Dig even deeper, then start writing again. You’ll often need to go past two of these “blank spots” to get to the real thing you need to learn.
Set clear next steps
Once you’ve processed this, you need to set some clear next steps so that you won’t end up making the same mistakes over and over again. Start by creating a very clear goal.
What do you want to be different about next time? What is success going to look like? Then get practical. Knowing what you now know about the technical aspects of last time’s failure, ask yourself:
- What do I need help with?
- How much help will I need?
- Who am I going to ask for it?
- How much time should I allow for this project?
- Do I need a budget? If so, how much should I include in it?
- How can I help myself focus this time around?
- What beliefs or habits do I particularly need to guard against?
Once you’ve taken all of this information on board, we’d love to know which elements you applied to overcoming failure which got your small business flourishing again.
About the author
This guide has been written for ByteStart by Leigh Ashton has spent over 20 years helping people realise their sales potential. Leigh is the author of iSell: Unlock your winning sales mindset and co-founder of Sasudi the only online sales resource that’s designed to give you all the sales training, inspiration, support and direction you need to grow your business.