Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.
Startup failure is far too common. In fact, it’s estimated that over 75 percent of venture-backed startups actually fail. In addition, half of all startups fail within the first five years, and up to 70 percent of those that survive will fall after a decade. It’s a worrying statistic, and many people have fooled themselves to believe that failure is to be expected and should even be embraced.
Embracing Failure is an Illusion
People will tell you that embracing failure is a natural part of being an entrepreneur. In fact, there are many famous entrepreneurs who have failed in business before being able to start something bigger and better. Big names like Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg and even Colonel Sanders are known to have failed in the past, so people take that as a reason to assume failing is ok.
What people usually say is that failing teaches you and gives you experience. That’s absolutely correct—at least if you’re living in the old days before computers existed and everything is documented for the long term. So why rely on outdated information and traditions in order to become a successful entrepreneur? There are plenty of famous business owners who have written autobiographies and discussed many of their success secrets. Why not learn from these entrepreneurs and work to not fail instead?
With all of the information available, you should really rethink the mantra “failure is fine”. Sure, failure is fine in a sense that it puts you in your place, but anyone who says “we can learn from our failures” is taking the most difficult rote to learn the lessons. Whether it’s online guides, videos, webinars or biographies, there’s an entire world’s worth of information out there that you can use to learn how to run a business, be it a startup or a large corporation. Be resourceful, learn to use the tools and resources available to you and develop new ways to run your company. Don’t rely on outdated worth-of-mouth business practices and stop using the “we’re a startup” excuse as a means of failure.
Preparing Your Startup for the Long Haul
One of the first things you need to change is your way of thinking. You should understand that if you plan for failure, you’re going to fail. (Note: This is very different from having contingency plans, which is just good business.) You need to think about your business differently and you need to approach startups in a different way. Instead of thinking that you’ll use a startup to improve your knowledge and build future ideas, why not plan for success?
It doesn’t take long to search for tips for starting your business on the internet review ways to avoid failure. You wouldn’t buy a car unless you knew how to drive properly (unless you’re extremely wealthy) and had done extensive research, so why would you start a business without first knowing how it works and how to improve?
In addition, if you’re going to act like a startup then you will likely be treated like a startup by investors and partners. For instance, if you’ve grown enough that you need to hire an employee or two, you could rent office space to begin separating your home and work life. Employees are necessary if you want to grow your business, so don’t neglect the importance of bringing your startup out of the home office and into the corporate world when you’re ready.
Stop using your startup status as an excuse to fail. It’s pointless to manage a business if you’re not willing to go the whole way. What’s the point of starting a business if you’re going to end up failing anyway? It’s a waste of time and money, and who’s to say that your next attempt will be better if you go into it with the same mindset? How many businesses (and subsequently, jobs) will you ruin just to sate your need for “knowledge?” Learn about the industry, study how to run a business and get it right your first try to save time, money and effort.