What I’ve learned from my failed businesses

What I’ve learned from my failed businesses

As much as I love entrepreneurship I’ve always had a problem with the glamorisation of the art form. Never in the history of man has the idea of entrepreneurship been more “en vogue” than it is today.

The bright side of business and entrepreneurship is often headline news, but the failures of the everyday entrepreneur is often swept under the carpet. Entrepreneurs ride off the seats of their successes and usually require perception to give them a leg up onto the next rung of the ladder.

It’s this perception that creates the mystery around entrepreneurship. Without it people would realise that the basic principles of consistent hard work and careful planning are the magic ingredients that they’re looking for.

Are entrepreneurs ‘special’? Probably not, they just work ‘especially’ hard and do things in a ‘special’ way.

The famed Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame said that some very successful entrepreneurs have up to 17 failed ventures before they meet their big success.

It was this statement that gave me great comfort when I became a full time entrepreneur in 2005.

Before and after this time I’ve had more failed businesses than successes. I’m only able to write this with a big smile on my face because the successes have thankfully outweighed the failures. The failures were there to teach me the lessons I would need to better handle in my future. That said, at the time, they were tougher than the words you’re reading could describe.

It’s these lessons I would like to share with you because they will become the fuel to drive you into a successful venture and navigate away from the pitfalls of business and entrepreneurship.

So here goes, in no particular order, just how they come to me:

1. Work harder than you need to — Hard work beats talent every time. So unless you think that you’re so talented that you can score every time — work hard.

2. Focus on delivering the best product or service possible — There are too many options available today for almost any product or service for people to buy mediocrity. Make sure that you give your customers the best experience possible

3. Chose your partners carefully — Don’t go into business with someone just because they’re friends or family. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this work well (I’m sure it has I just haven’t seen it). Go into business with people because they bring skills to the table that you don’t have. Go into business with people who want it as badly as you do.

4. Manage cash flow — If you’re no good at managing money then be honest with yourself about it. Pay a bookkeeper or accountant to handle it for you. As a general rule, if you’re no good at something it’s more than worth paying someone to do it for you.

5. Be ethical and honest — Good business is based on good relationships which are based on honest communication. If you can’t do something, don’t do it. Avoid over promising and under delivering. Everyone makes mistakes but fall into this category too many times and your business reputation will be scarred for life.

6. Build a team as soon as possible — Just because you’re capable of doing everything doesn’t mean you should. At some point if you’re doing well enough you won’t be able to juggle all those balls yourself and they’ll start to drop — one by one.

7. Have fun — As an entrepreneur business will fill up most of your life. You owe to it yourself to enjoy as much of it as possible. There’s no point having a million £ in the bank and no joy in your tank.

8. Forget what people say — Watch what they do. Ideas are yesterday execution is today and excellence will see you into tomorrow. Most people can talk a good one and being a good natured soul you may take them at face value. Let action and results do the talking for them and for you.

9. Start like you mean it — The idea of a lean start up is great but don’t use it as an excuse to bail out when the going gets tough. Sure if the idea tanks then you can leave with little loss. But don’t mistake this for surmounting challenges because you’ll simply meet them in the next business you start up.

10. To sacrifice or not to sacrifice — Not all, but some really successful entrepreneurs will tell you they’ve lost friendships, marriages, houses, health and whatever else in pursuit of their entrepreneurial dreams. This isn’t a requirement of success it’s simply their story. Find your story. Success in business could mean misery in other areas of your life. Find balance, because if other areas of your life are strong, they’ll support the entrepreneurial side of your life. The converse is also true.

I’ll be doing a part 2 to this blog where I’ll list the businesses which failed and explain why.

Til then — To your success!

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