Running a company can be quite a gamble at times. Entrepreneurs need to decide what business opportunities to pursue or pass on, often without having any idea of how these opportunities will turn out. Chances are that each entrepreneur has made the mistake of passing on an opportunity that proved to be highly lucrative afterward.
But dwelling on these mistakes and obsessing over how you could have prevented them is both counterproductive and can negatively impact a leader's decision-making when future opportunities present themselves. Below, seven entrepreneurs share their best advice on how to bounce back and overcome regret after losing an important deal or business opportunity.
Own it and learn from it.
"Focusing too much on a lost opportunity can be like carrying around a weight," muses Blair Thomas, co-founder of eMerchantBroker. "When I have carried around too many regrets, it has impacted my ability to see new ventures."
The best approach, according to Thomas, is to recognize what happened and why you missed the opportunity, and then keep track of aspects you should pay more attention to next time. "This approach has helped me find new, even better opportunities," he says.
Look for the next opportunity.
In fact, looking for other, possibly better, opportunities is one of the best ways to overcome the regret that comes with missed business chances, says Serenity Gibbons, local unit lead for NAACP in Northern California.
"I remind myself that it wasn't the only opportunity for success. There are always more out there so I focus my attention on spotting the next one and not letting that one pass me by," she explains.
Prepare a list of questions for the future.
When looking for the next opportunity, it's important to be so well prepared that you don't repeat the same mistake again, thinks Blair Williams, founder and CEO of MemberPress.
"Look back at your missed opportunity and brainstorm what kind of questions you could have asked but missed out on that would have helped you reach a different or better decision," Williams recommends. "Next time you'll know exactly what to ask to ensure you don't miss out."
Stay hung up.
For entrepreneurs like Aaron Schwartz, co-founder and COO of Passport, staying hung up on a missed opportunity is actually the key to avoiding such mistakes in the future: "Passport is the third business I co-founded. The first one flopped and the second one was on a big trajectory before... flopping. It's frustrating. But I don't pretend that it didn't happen."
On the contrary, Schwartz says, "I think about the business all the time in order to tease out specific decisions that I made. I want to learn from the bad ones (and yes, the good ones) to give Passport the highest likelihood of success."
Fuel your drive to create.
"What you may be feeling is a bit of regret and jealousy. Simply channel those feeling into the next project. Use it to fuel your drive to create," shares Peter Boyd, founder of PaperStreet Web Design.
It's important to reflect on why you passed on that opportunity and what made the next person successful, Boyd explains, but make sure you don't stay bitter: "Keep in mind that just because someone else made it a success, does not mean it would have been a success if you had worked on the project."
Study behavioral finance.
A good approach to overcoming regret in business is studying and learning how to apply behavioral finance, "a subset of economics that analyzes the psychology that influences most business decisions," says CPA Exam Guy CEO Bryce Welker.
"After learning about potential biases by researching this topic, I've been able to identify them in myself in order to prevent missing out on great opportunities. Learning about concepts like the 'gambler's fallacy' and 'conservatism bias' can be extremely helpful," Welker explains.
Identify the positives.
Being able to find the positive even in a missed opportunity is key to changing your mindset and learning not to dwell on past mistakes, believes Rachel Beider, CEO of Massage Outpost.
"When we are stressed about regretting something, or feeling anxious over a missed opportunity, we don't have access to the resources of our mind," she explains. "Get out of that headspace by asking yourself, 'What else could this mean?' or 'What's great about this?' Chances are you'll be in a better place to move forward."