Name a successful person and odds are he or she has a deep history of failure.
Henry Ford's first two car companies went under. James Dyson suffered through more than 5,000 failed prototypes before he created the first working Dyson vacuum. J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected repeatedly by publishers. Michael Jordan likes to point out that he missed 9,000 shots during his NBA career and lost almost 300 games.
No one wants to fail, but failure is often the necessary step towards success. The key is not to focus on the failure, but rather what you can learn from the experience to elevate you to the next level. Missing baskets taught Michael Jordan to work harder to improve his shooting skills. Bankruptcy showed Henry Ford how to better market his new product to hesitant customers.
When I first was a partner in a yoga studio, I didn't have the in-depth yoga knowledge like the teachers who worked for me. As a CPA, I didn't think this would be an issue as I ran the business side of the studio. However, by not being a yoga expert, it hurt my arguments to make certain business decisions because I didn't know the industry well enough. Before owning another studio, I corrected my shortcoming and became a yoga instructor. I spent time teaching yoga so I had better knowledge (and confidence) when dealing with the business side.
Think about approaching your career and business in the same way. See your shortcomings as an opportunity to learn. This will give you the extra knowledge (and courage) to do better the next time and try something different.
Here are three strategies on how you can learn from failure and turn it into a positive experience for your business and career:
1. List your mistakes.
To be a good entrepreneur, you first need to be good at self-reflection so your business can continue to grow. Is there anything in your business that is not going as planned? Why? If mistakes were made, own them and list them. Did you not communicate enough with a potential client? Did you not budget enough time for staff to complete a project? Did you not have strategies in place for anticipated setbacks? Only when you know how and why you failed can you avoid making the same mistakes the next time.
2. Find what you need to learn.
Once you identify areas you need to change, what should you do so those things are not repeated? Maybe you need help with planning and time management, or you need to recruit more qualified team members, or you should devote more time to front-end research. Make a detailed list of the shortcomings.
When I made the decision to adjust my accounting practice to offer consulting and training, I had to also determine what I needed to learn to offer that service. Some of that was trial and error and learning from customers. There were many timeswhen I didn't know an answer right away when speaking with a client. I had to learn to admit that to the client, but added that I would research the answer and get back to them.
I discovered that clients wanted a responsive consultant and not someone with a quick answer. By learning this lesson, I put together processes to ensure my team responded in a timely fashion and developed efficient ways to find answers.
3. Make a plan.
Now think about what you can do to correct mistakes or improve for the next time. This might mean changing the usual project process by adding or subtracting steps.
For example, as my accounting practice grew, so did the number of people working for me and the number of projects we worked on at any given time. In order to avoid anxiety about everything getting done fast and on time, I implemented project plans and workflow management processes and tools. That way I had oversight on the status of all projects in real-time, and could identify which clients required immediate attention and staff that needed assistance.
Failure is the price of business success. Don't worry about trying new things or making mistakes. Remember that every failure is an opportunity to learn, grow, and prosper the next time. It may be tough to endure while it's happening, but don't let it define what you can do and what nuggets of gold in business opportunities lie in the learning.