It is quite normal that in our quest to become successful we will encounter some energy-sapping failures. Success can only come through action. However a lot of the times the action we take doesn’t always work. Things don’t always go according to plan.
And what hurts the most is that it is not only the fact that you fail to make the millions that you thought you were going to make, but that you also lose the little that you had to start with. And it sucks.
So, what do you do when you fail on a project that you were sure was going to take you to the promised land? It can be very difficult to keep your focus when things are not going as well as you would like. And we understand that.
However, in the midst of each failure, it is critical to keep a cool head. Often it is such moments that make the difference between those who succeed and those who completely fail at becoming successful. You see success is intricately linked with failure.
It is extremely unlikely that an individual will know success without encountering failure. The funny thing is that even within the projects or businesses that succeed, you will still find moments of failure embedded within them.
It could be a sales campaign that lost money and produced no sales. It could be a product that was introduced with high hopes but was quickly abandoned because it just didn’t resonate with customers. There will always be failures within any Success model.
So it is ridiculous to imagine that you will go out and become successful without knowing failure at some stage. The key is to insulate yourself as much as is reasonably possible, by being meticulous and taking every caution.
But even after all that, you may still fail and when that happens you need to be able to deal with that situation the right way. Always be prepared to accept that some things you try may not work no matter what you do.
Every successful person that you know has failed or may be failing at something. Yet it is all about rising up and trying again. It may mean that you try something different. But you should never stop trying.
The point to always remember is that you can never try too many times.
The most important thing when dealing with failure is to gain a thorough understanding of why you failed. And there are some practical ways you can use to try to figure out how and why something failed.
So let us consider for a moment some of the things that you can do to understand the circumstances that led to your failure.
The first thing to do is to stop whatever it is that you are doing that is not working. This may sound silly to you. After all, why would anybody continue doing something that isn’t working right?
Well, you will be amazed how reluctant folks can be when it comes to abandoning something that’s not working. For one reason or another, some people find it hard to just drop something in which they have invested a lot of time, money, and sacrifice.
And it is understandable to a point. But at the end of the day, it is a bad mistake to keep fighting a losing battle. You risk losing even more without making any progress.
There are obvious advantages to taking a step back for a moment to gain some perspective before doing anything else.
ANALYSE TO UNDERSTAND
When a person dies unexpectedly, a post mortem is usually carried out to ascertain the cause of death. In a similar fashion, it is critical for you to dissect your failed project to understand, what happened, how it happened, and why it did.
The concept of not giving up and trying again is predicated on the notion that one tries again with more knowledge, intelligence, and experience. It assumes that you have studied why you failed and are now coming back better-informed.
So it is important to take time to break down every aspect of the failed project and analyze what occurred.
This concept is better illustrated by the second world war`s battle of Caen. Under the direction and leadership of three generals, Bernard Montgomery, Omar Bradley and Miles Dempsey the allied forces were knocked back three times.
But after each failed attempt, they retreated, regrouped, analyzed their position, re-strategized, and tried again. And on the fourth attempt, they succeeded.
Progress is only informed by failure through objective analysis of past and current circumstances.
There are a few key questions that can be asked to assist in conducting an effective and thorough analysis of a failed project.
1 Was your Business Idea flawed?
It has been known to happen that from time to time, people come up with bad business ideas. So it is only appropriate to look at the project concept and assess if it was a credible one. Think about how you came up with the idea, and why.
Consider how you tested the idea to see if it was viable. Was the concept based on a fad? Was the concept targeted towards the right customers? Was your pricing model competitive? How effective were your marketing activities?
Did the right people hear about your product or service? How easy was it for people to access and buy your product or service?
All these questions can help you gain some perspective about why things went wrong for you.
If you are satisfied that your idea was brilliant and that it was not the problem then we need to consider other factors.
2.Poor Business Management
You will be amazed at how businesses that are based on brilliant concepts can fail due to catastrophic management by the owner. It is not always the case that a good inventor is also a good business manager.
The problem with people who create ideas is that sometimes their passion gets in the way of objectivity. And it is not always easy for them to admit that, while they have a brilliant idea, they are not good at managing a business.
Business management requires specific knowledge and skills. That is not to suggest that one has to have a degree to be a good business manager (although it helps). But the point is one needs to have a basic understanding of what a business is, and how the functions of a business interact together.
An idea is not a business. It is just that, an idea. That is because an idea on its own doesn`t generate money. A business is what generates money. So what is needed is to create a business around the idea. That way the idea begins to flourish through the business.
So business management involves bringing together various business functions and coordinating them effectively to transform an idea into a viable business. The questions to ask is, how was the business managed?
How was the idea transformed from a concept into a business? How were the following business functions managed?
- Customer service
- Sourcing & Distribution
- Quality Control
You will find that coordinating all these functions is not easy and a lot of businesses fail when one or more of these functions is mismanaged.
So it may be worth looking and analyzing if poor management skills were not the cause of an idea failing to take off.
There are some of the key questions that you may want to ask when trying to establish the cause of project/business failure are;
3. When did you start to go into crisis/problems?
Understanding the exact time at which your problems began can help you direct your attention to the things that you were doing at that particular time.
For example, if your problems started soon you made a huge business decision, then it could be possible, (though not necessarily certain), that it may probably have caused your problems.
4. What were the problems?
You can`t solve a problem that you can`t define. You must know exactly what your problems were for you to be able to find the cause. Remember, problems themselves are mere symptoms of underlying business issues.
For you to get to those issues you must be able to fully understand what the problems are. For example, it could be that you ran out of cash and couldn’t pay your bills, or that you couldn`t meet excessive demand.
Whatever the problems were, you have to be able to define them and their symptoms.
5. What caused those problems?
Consider each individual problem and look for the root causes of that particular problem.
From our earlier example, if you ran out of cash, then the underlying causes could be that you were holding too much inventory thus tying up all your cash, or it could be that your selling strategies were ineffective resulting in poor sales.
Maybe your expenditure was out of control. Perhaps you gave out credit and people were slow paying up. The bottom line is you can only gain intelligence about what happened through careful analysis of the problems that occurred.
6. What actions did you take to avert the crisis?
It is a normal entrepreneur instinct to react to a crisis by taking action to avoid ultimate collapse. Evidently, those actions failed to save the business.
However, those actions must form a crucial part of your business flop inquest. It could be possible some of the actions you took made things worse or were simply ineffective. You have to analyze those actions and how they affected your business.
It may be true that you took the wrong actions.
7. Are there other possible actions you could have taken but did not?
Every time you take one possible course of action you leave out an alternative. If say, there are ten ways you could solve a problem and you choose one, then it follows that you ignore the other nine alternatives.
So the context of our inquest, what were those alternatives you chose not to pursue? It is quite possible that you may have picked the wrong choice of action and left a possible alternative that could have saved your business.
Critically answering the above questions will go some way into helping you to understand the underlying reasons why your project/business failed. It provides you with more information about the crisis, and whether or not it could have been avoided.
Your analysis can also reveal if it was due to human error, that the business flopped, or that it was something beyond your control.
8.External business analysis.
It is always important at this stage to consult an expert about your business failure. A different eye can always pick something you may have missed. Just like proofreading an article that you write yourself.
No matter how many times you re-read your work you still miss something. That is why writers do not proofread their own work. Similarly, a business person should not only analyze their own business themselves but also engage others with different viewpoints and opinions.
9. Accept Failure
There is one key fundamental concept that we need to understand here. Accepting that you have failed does not mean giving up. It is a mere acknowledgment that on this occasion things have not turned out as planned.
It is extremely important that you reflect on things and accept what has happened.
Accepting failure also means accepting that failure is a serious thing. I will not lie to you and tell you that it`s nothing because it is `not nothing`. Thinking that failing is nothing is simply going into denial mode.
And that is dangerous. Burying your head in the sand and making believe that everything is fine is not the best way to move forward. So you must accept that you failed and that there may be serious repercussions for that failure. That is the best starting point for recovery.
10. Business Debts
As we have seen, making a sober and honest analysis of failure also involves considering the consequences of that failure. And one of the most common consequences is debt.
If for instance, you borrowed money to start the project/business, those whom you borrowed from will be knocking on your door demanding their money back.
If you have been declared bankrupt you may not be allowed to become a director for a period of time. All these are serious problems that should not be ignored or dismissed as `nothing`. You will have to face them and come up with solutions.
Debt is serious and you cannot afford to ignore it. So find a way to deal with it and then move on.
Do not move on to the next project without first putting in place a plan to deal with the consequences of past failures, whatever they may be.
Also, you need to be aware of how your failure is impacting on the people you care about. If you have a family it may be time to have honest discussions to ensure that you are all on the same page emotionally.
Do not allow excessive passion to run away with you. Part of being successful is the ability to identify the most important things in life. And nothing is more important than family and its welfare.
Failure is everywhere. It is an ever-present part of life. An untrained mind may see failure as an end in itself. But a trained mind understands that it all part of the journey to success.
It boils down to perspective. How do you see failure? And the great thing is that it is your choice to choose how you see failure. You can choose to allow one particular failure to break you, or you can choose to learn something from it and start again with a more informed attitude.
“The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way”, Dale Carnegie.