Most new business ventures begin with failure. 20% of businesses fail within the first year and 50% within the first five years of starting. This is the part of the process that is left unsaid in seminars and symposia about building resilient businesses. Resilience is needed. The more ostentatious or novel your idea is, the likelihood that you will meet roadblocks, pushbacks, and maybe a complete crash that means you have to start again. This is not so commonly discussed, outside the obvious callback to “failing forward”, in business seminars. They want your money. It is important you see challenges as things that can be overcome by a montage or gritting teeth on the way to glory.
The truth is failure is never pretty. It takes a toll. It makes you less confident of your original ideas. It can lead to bankruptcy. It can distort life and it can be harmful on one’s mental health and wellbeing. It is mostly unavoidable, however. It will happen to every entrepreneur. Understanding how to handle failure in whatever guise it appears is vital to becoming a resilient business owner and successful entrepreneur.
Now, there is no magic wand. People deal with and survive failure in different ways. We have all heard the stories of Aliko Dangote or Bill Gates or Walt Disney and how they faced challenges in building their large corporations. The truth is most businesses will not be that big. They will exist on a good scale, cater to their own clients, be sustainable over the long term, and give the entrepreneur enough income to live a comfortable life and provide for their loved ones. Entrepreneurship can accommodate both scales of ambition and effort. It is always important to first define your own personal measure of success and ask yourself what growth will look like in the short, medium, and long term.
That mindset does not take away the sting of failure though. The most important feature of resilience is what you learn from failure. The things that got in the way of your idea. The actual inventory of events leading up to the failure of your enterprise. We are learning everyday that education plays a major part in business success. This does not mean only formal education. Education is about learning a subject well enough that it is applicable and has value in your everyday life. Entrepreneurial education is useful to learn “the underlying principles of starting a business, avoid common pitfalls, pitch ideas more effectively, validate your product, develop a solid business model, and set yourself up for success in a field where failure is common.”
It is important – however you see your business – to know that failure is part of the process, that learning from this failure is key, that being resilient in the face of disaster is vital, and that education, on the informal and formal scale, is an added advantage to understanding your own business ecosystem and building a wealth of experience and resources that will help you become the entrepreneur you want to be.