Start-ups are often hard-up. You invest your money, your time, your life into an idea and then watch, almost powerlessly, to see whether it sinks or swims. Sometimes, these small ideas soar, and bloom into billion pound businesses — think Spotify, think Facebook, think Amazon.
But then, on the other side of the Bitcoin, there are the thousands and thousands of start-ups that don’t quite make it. The companies that just miss their stride, launch at the wrong time or build themselves on an untenable business model.
Global pandemics non-withstanding, starting a business is hard at the best of times — and it can feel like the end of the world when they fail, but history is filled with entrepreneurs, politicians and innovators alike whose eventual success is predicated upon years of failure. So, if you ever feel despondent about your business prospects, take heed and hope from these wise words…
“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”
The takeaway: Don’t let fear stand between you and your goals. It’s important to be clear-eyed and aware of the risks with your business but, if you truly believe you have something special, focus on the potential successes rather than the chance of failure.
Thomas A. Edison
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
The takeaway: No great achievement – the lightbulb included – comes easily. Nor should it. If you achieve immediate success then what have you learned? For every failure, no matter how big or small, find the lesson and make sure you learn from it.
“There’s a silly notion that failure’s not an option at NASA. Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”
The takeaway: If one of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs is willing to accept failure in a venture as big and costly as space travel, then you should too. But as Musk also points out, if everything is going smoothly then chances are you’re not pushing the boundaries enough. After all, no-one ever gained true success by sticking to the tried and tested path.
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
The takeaway: It may be hard to stay optimistic right now but, once the pandemic has passed, entrepreneurs are going to be crucial to economic recovery. All you have to do is retain your passion for your business and spot the opportunities that we promise are coming. Don’t let failure, whether for reasons under your control or not, kill your drive.
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
The takeaway: The straight-speaking Mr Ford makes this one pretty simple: failure is fine – as long as you don’t make the same mistakes again. Every error, be it poor networking technique that loses you a contract or misunderstanding crucial business costs, is a teaching experience – make sure you take those lessons to heart. Even situations, like COVID-19, that are out of your control offer chances to learn and grow if you look for them.
“Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.”
The takeaway: While we can’t speak to the business accumen of the Surrealist painter, no-one knows about striving for perfection better than an artist. Yes, doing things properly is important for success – but, if constant tinkering and editing in a quest for perfection is stopping you from launching your business in the first place, you’ve got a problem. All companies evolve and change over time as they work out ways to do things better and yours should be no different.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”
The takeaway: Ever heard the saying, ‘We may have lost the battle but we’ll win the war’? That’s essentially the message here. Business setbacks can come in all shapes and sizes but 99% of the time there’s a way to solve the problem and live to see another day. Don’t give up when the going gets tough.
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
The takeaway: Landed a big deal? Made your first million? Absolutely enjoy those successes – you’ve earned them. But don’t rest on your laurels because, if there’s anything the coronavirus pandemic has taught us, it’s that nothing is certain. Keep learning, innovating and adapting so you can continue to grow.
“Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
The takeaway: Tomorrow is a new day. Even when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom, remember the game isn’t over until you say it is. Follow every lead and chase every glimmer of hope because you may be down but you’re not out.
“Failure is only the end if you decide to stop.”
The takeaway: Branson is a business mogul who’s had nearly as many high profile failures as he has successes but one thing he’s never done? Quit. No entrepreneur knows everything and setbacks are inevitable. Ask for help if you need it, heed the advice of those more experienced but don’t let challenges, however great, stop you doing what you love.
Next up: Learn the best productivity advice from some of the world’s best entrepreneurs.
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