It is true in life and in business: If you don't fail, you don't receive your greatest learnings and opportunities.
We always hear about corporate giants that overcame failure to be global successes and business icons who endured repeated setbacks before they reached the top. But I've found that business owners like us can also learn from other up-and-comers who have failed, rebounded, and then tried again with better results. What did they learn from the first go-around?
Reading these stories, I've noticed many recurring themes. Here is a look at three such lessons that may save your business from an untimely end, or provide insight for your next venture.
1. Know your customers.
You might have the best idea for a business and feel your services fill a void in the market, but that is not always the case. You need to get input from your customers as soon as possible, learn what they need and why, and then make the necessary adjustments.
Robin Case, founder and former CEO of Zipcar, an online car rental company, learned this lesson when she launched her second company. Chase says she spent too much time and money on the website and software before engaging with her initial customers. The result was a disconnect between what they wanted and what the company offered, which was a recipe for failure.
I experienced this when I wanted to launch virtual yoga at my studio. At first, we decided to put cameras in the room so members who couldn't attend would feel like were still a part of the class. However, we soon discovered that the students in the class didn't want to be on camera, and the virtual people only wanted the convenience of attending an off-site class. Once we noticed this, we pivoted and pre-recorded classes rather than doing them live, which satisfied everyone.
2. Do background checks--always.
Never hire anyone without doing a thorough look into his or her background. Not only will this save time and money from a bad hire, but could possibly save your business.
For instance, Sue Zimmerman, founder of Sue B. Zimmerman Enterprise, which provides social media strategies for small businesses, says she once hired an accountant without a complete background check. The person ended up stealing thousands of dollars.
Unfortunately, we have all been there. At one company I worked for, I learned that a fellow employee was working for a competitor and sharing information. The lesson here is that no matter what your first impression about someone, always be diligent about checking backgrounds and references. It could end up saving your company.
3. Invest in the (right) hires.
Money is always tight in the beginning, so you must be smart about where you invest. Yet, many new business owners often ignore where they need the greatest help: their employees and/or contractors. Think about it. They are the direct line between your business and your customers. Not only do you need the right people in place, but also ones with the proper skills.
"I started hiring people who were better than me in different areas of my business. That was the turning point for me," Chirag Kulkarni, founder of the content marketing agency Taco, said in an interview with The Next Web, about an early venture.
It's so easy to think you can do everything, but the tasks you don't like (or don't do well), are the ones you should hire people for. I like to utilize personality tests to identify people with the skills I don't have, but desperately need.
Most business owners cannot afford to make major mistakes, or learn along the way. This is why heading the wisdom from those who have been there before and failed--and ultimately succeeded--can offer the guidance we need. It sometimes can make the difference between "open for business" and "going out of business."