How to Rebound After a Major Business Mistake

Whether we like it or not, life doesn’t always go the way we planned it. The same is true in business. While most entrepreneurs accept the fact that the journey to success may be a bit bumpy along the way, that same acceptance is harder to maintain when the cause of the turbulence is a personal mistake. Still, it’s those very mistakes (and our response to them) that can make all the difference between the success and failure of even the most promising business venture.

Why Making Mistakes in Business Are a Good Thing

On the surface, it would seem that making mistakes is something to avoid at all costs. But, the reality is most of the setbacks and failures that occur within a business are a goldmine of valuable information and experiences. When they are handled properly (more on this below), mistakes can help business owners and managers discover stopgaps, wastage, and wrong assumptions so they can refocus and realign their priorities and their resources, and ultimately streamline operations. Failure also can lead to personal growth and learning, and it is a vital part of innovation and experimentation.

In short, it’s all a matter of perspective. Smart entrepreneurs expect that there will be some unavoidable failures ahead. But instead of running away from them, they embrace them and turn them into valuable learning opportunities.

Here is an example:

In the late 1990s, Christopher Gergen, co-founded an online tutoring platform for high school and college students called Smarthinking.com. Everything was looking good in the beginning of 2000. The company was experiencing rapid growth and had the backing of investors. But then the dot com bubble burst. Shaken investors pulled out their financing, leaving Gergen and his partner with practically no money to work with. They had failed to foresee the impending collapse of the market and were cuaght unprepared.

Instead of ignoring the problem, the two founders brought their whole staff together and explained exactly what needed to happen to save the company. They skimped and saved for a half a year and were eventually able to raise a $5 million round of financing.

That experience ultimately helped the business to take a much more disciplined approach to their cash flow management, and unlike many of the tech companies of that time, Smartthinking.com still exists today and has survived even the recent recession.

How to Turn Mistakes into Opportunities

In tech oriented circles these days, failure is actually embraced; it’s almost become a badge of honor and a sign that success will come later on. The result is that entrepreneurs looking for outside investors assume that prior failures are a plus in their favor. They make mistakes and just as quickly move on from them.

This attitude may sound more positive, but it is deceptively so. Not all failures are created equal. The kinds of failures that make an entrepreneur more likely to receive the support and backing of outside investors and the ones that will truly lead to future success are the ones that show smart decision-making, a rational approach to solving a problem, as well as real learning and growth. These factors are themselves the indications that success may well be on its way.

But, how do you get to this place in your business- especially if you’ve made some big blunders?

Here are a few points to keep in mind:

Start with acceptance. Being in the wrong does not mean you are weak or bad; it just means you are human. Once you can get that into your head, it becomes much easier to be transparent, honest, and to take personal responsibility for the error. The worst thing you can do is to try to pin the blame others- even if there were other people involved. Also, in situations where someone was hurt, make the effort to make amends.

Feedback is key. Realize that by nature it will be hard to look objectively at your failure. The urge to either gloss over the mistake or overreact to it is extremely difficult to overcome. For that reason you need an outside perspective.

Do not ignore and actively seek out critical feedback- from mentors, customers, employees, peers, and partners. Successful entrepreneurs assume some adaptation and change will be required, so they actively seek feedback, spot failures and fix them early. They avoid the instinctive reaction of denial, or the stubbornness of charging straight ahead despite evidence that a strategy is not working.

But a caveat: not all feedback is created equal. Even though it’s important to seek out the advice of others, you at the same time need to sift out the golden nuggets of suggestions, advice, and even complaints while throwing out or just putting on the side, the ideas that are not currently applicable.

Look failure in the face. Listen to feedback, and then have the courage to explore the root cause of the mistake. What was in your control to change, and what factors were outside of it? Define the mistake in a non-defensive way so that everyone involved can better understand what happened and how to avoid it in the future.

By going through this process, you are more likely to end up fixing the real problem, and not just a symptom.

Look for the silver lining. Now it’s time to reframe the whole situation. Determine not only what went wrong, but also what went right and how you can learn from the experience. chart your own path. New paths are the key to success for an entrepreneur, but unless you listen and do your homework, you will be unable to recognize the old proven paths to perdition.

Take action. The last step to this process is to implement change based on what you learned from the experience. Your goal is to not only try to rectify the problem, but to get things back on track. Failures should result in better processes and better documentation, or they will become mistakes repeated. Moreover, the process of change needs to be implemented quickly before negative and hard to change assumptions get in the way of progress.

The key take away to all of this is that failure is very much a matter of perspective. Mistakes happen. They’re an unavoidable part of life, but failure is in the eye of the beholder. To the extent that you can turn a blunder- even a major one- into a learning experience that forever changes the way you do things- both now and in the future- then the truth is there was no real failure after all. Instead, it becomes just another opportunity for success down the road.

 

What Successful People Do That You Aren’t

Ever wonder why success isn’t beating down your door? Don’t just chalk it up to bad luck. Even if it seems that some individuals may have been dealt an amazing hand in life, the truth is the vast majority of successful people became that way because they wanted it, worked for it, and throughout it all, kept their eyes on the ball.

10 Keys to successSo,what are they doing differently? What’s the secret to being successful in business and in life? Here are 10 things that successful people do that most others overlook:

1. They get up early and make the most of the morning quiet. All you night owls out there, listen up! Most successful people use the wee hours of the morning to exercise, focus on their most important projects, and set their agenda for the rest of the day or week. That is when their minds are the freshest and there is less risk of being interrupted. They also make sure to eat a healthy breakfast. If mornings are particularly hard for you, though, then there are several things that you can do to at least make your day start a bit earlier. If not, then tune into your body to see where your energy is the highest, whether it’s in the late mornings, afternoons, or evenings, and then do what you can get to create an uninterrupted work environment.

2. They choose a work environment that energizes them. While we’re on the topic of work environment, one of the most essential aspects of working productively is how conducive your surroundings are to getting work done. For some people, this may mean having a clean and quiet work space, for others a window with a nice view, still others may prefer to work in a busy, collaborative space surrounded by other people working on their own projects. Again, you have to be in tune with your own rhymes and rhythms to see what gives you the biggest boost.

3. They spend time on meditation and visualization. You don’t have to get into the lotus position to take advantage of meditation. Meditation really just means focus- an inward focus on yourself, your goals, and your place in the world. And, when mediation is combined with visualization it is a tremendously powerful tool you can use to both keep yourself focused on what you want to accomplish and to help you see the steps that are needed to get you there. The most productive times to do meditation are for a few minutes first thing in the morning as well as right before going to sleep at night. But, if you are struggling with it, then here are some fun tips.

4. They spend quality time with family and friends. Successful people know how to set boundaries for themselves in order to preserve their energy, time, and space. This includes ensuring that there is adequate time for loved ones. Not only will this make you feel more balanced and energized, but your friends and family will be more likely to be supportive of what you do as well.

5. They go outside of their comfort zones. Successful people constantly push themselves to acquire new skills and competencies even under difficult circumstances. When they have issues that get in the way, such as fear or real deficiencies, they look for ways to work around them. For example, an introverted person could look for ways to use his or her nature to get further in life- even in a world that favors extroverts.

6. They learn by doing. Successful people spend more time implementing the ideas and knowledge they already have till they achieve a sufficient amount of mastery and less time gaining new knowledge.

7. They look for inspiration. Successful people have a role model that they study. They will often not spend their energy trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they’ll also consider what is already working and then adapt, expand, or improve on those ideas.

8. They track their progress… the old fashioned way. Successful people set goals that are specific, measurable, and attainable, and they take the time to reflect and learn from their mistakes. Writing things down is key. This means using an old fashioned notebook. Eminem keeps a journal. Peyton Manning keeps a journal. Richard Branson uses one too. There’s just something about writing things down, the physical act that creates a physical thing that is not so easily lost among all the other bits of digital data, reminders, and metrics.

9. They spend time with the right people. Successful people associate with people who are likeminded, focused, and supportive. They reach out to connected, influential individuals who are right for their dreams and goals.

10. They know how to handle failure. This is one of the biggest factors to success. High achievers aren’t perfect. In fact, many of the most successful people faced an extraordinary amount of setbacks along the way. The key was knowing how to either turn those set backs into opportunities or know when to cut their loses and move on.

In short, real success is about real work and focus. There is no way around it. So, are willing to do what it takes to be successful? If the answer is yes, then you’re already well on your way.

How to Turn Your Business into a Multi-Million Dollar Operation

business successIt is possible for a small business to make it big, even in an economy that is slowing down, and even with stiff competition from big corporate competitors. By paying attention to the following five areas, you will be able to bring out the best in your small business:

business planning1. Plan it out. Business planning is not just for start-ups, and it is not something that happens only once a year. It is a continual process of setting goals, developing plans, and working every day to achieve them. Proper business planning includes: financial budgeting and forecasting, tax planning, monitoring daily cash flow, and planning promotions and marketing strategies.

If you are not familiar with certain business terms, concepts, or tools, then you can turn to plenty of on-line guides, articles, and tutorials that can increase your business acumen. Alternatively, you could hire a business planning consultant.

business financing2. Know how and where to get financing. One of the biggest reasons why small businesses fail is that they are unable to get adequate financing. Due to bad credit, slow or inconsistent sales, or being part of an industry that is considered more risky, many small business owners experience difficulty acquiring a standard business loan.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you will greatly increase your chances of getting approved for a business loan if you come to the application process fully prepared. Make sure to become familiar with the requirements necessary to secure a loan before applying.

You should also keep in mind that there are other financing methods available to small businesses aside from a standard loan, such as equipment leasing, invoice factoring, vendor financing, and business cash advances.

Customer Focus3. Be customer-focused. One thing that many small businesses have over big corporations is the personal relationship they can maintain with their customers. Do not overlook this vital asset! Customer-service goes beyond saying,”Have a nice day.” It means focusing on quality products and service, and monitoring customer satisfaction; it means actively asking your customers for suggestions or improvements and then following through on anything that can be implemented.

Cultivate Employees4. Cultivate your employees. Many small business owners do not realize the potential hidden within their own workforce. When your workers are happy that means increased productivity and a positive customer experience that can increase sales. Your workers are also a source of business-improving suggestions and problem-solving ideas.

Make sure to have in place a system for employee advancement as well as a system that recognizes consistent and outstanding work performance.

Create Opportunity5. Create opportunities to expand. Do not just sit around and wait for an expansion idea to fall into your lap… create one! You should be investing some time and resources to research and development to determine possible areas of expansion and to implement cost-cutting techniques. Not only will this ensure that your business is running efficiently, but it will help your small business to be flexible in response to market demand.

Following these tips combined with a lot of hard work and a bit of luck is the key success!

9 Sure Ways to Make Your Business Fail

Business FailureAccording to the Small Business Association, the majority of newly established small businesses will not survive past five years. Such statistics may not sound encouraging if you have recently started your own small business, but with a little bit of planning you can easily buck this trend.

The following are a few key factors that, if left unattended, can cause even the best business idea to be unsuccessful:

1. Lack of effective planning. Business planning is a continual process of setting goals, developing plans, and working every day to achieve them. Proper business planning spans all areas of the business including budgeting, tax planning, growth opportunities.

2. Failing to monitor the business. Planning means nothing if you are not monitoring how well your business is running and making necessary adjustments. You should pay attention in particular to your daily cash flow, productivity, and the movement of products through your business.

3. Lack of necessary cash flow. One of the biggest reasons why small businesses fail is that they are unable to get the funding they need when they need it. Keep your options open. Even if you are having difficulty securing a standard business loan, know that there are other financing methods available to small businesses, such as equipment leasing, invoice factoring, vendor financing, and business cash advances.

4. Ineffective marketing techniques. Marketing is essential to expanding and maintaining your customer base. If your current marketing techniques are not bringing in customers, then reevaluate them. If you do not have the time or knowhow to effectively market your business, then hire someone else to do it.

5. Ignoring competition. Business success depends on how effectively you can differentiate your products, services, and solutions from those offered by your competitors. Your unique selling point is your greatest asset. In order to maintain your competitive edge and stay in touch with current market trends, you need to be aware of what your competition is doing.

6. Out of touch with customers. Having a personal relationship with customers is an important asset that many big corporations do not enjoy. In order to maintain good relations with your customers, you should focus on quality products and service, monitoring customer satisfaction, and asking your customers for suggestions or improvements.

7. Not actualizing employees. Many small business owners do not realize the potential hidden within their own workforce. When your workers are happy then productivity rises and customers have a more positive experience that can lead to an increase sales. Your workers are also a source of business-improving suggestions and problem-solving ideas. Therefore, make sure to establish a system of employee advancement as well as a system that recognizes good work performance.

8. No research and development. To be successful, a small business must set aside time and resources to research and development to determine possible areas of expansion and to implement cost-cutting techniques. This ensures that the business is running efficiently and improves flexibility in response to market demand.

9. Lack of information. Most business owners have either never received a formal business education or are inexperienced with running a business, and they may lack the tools and ideas necessary to successfully run their businesses. The good news is there are numerous guides, articles, and tutorials available on line (like Entrepreneur , or the Wall Street Journal) that can give you practical advice and an extensive business education.

Don’t become a statistic!