Don't succeed at failure

  • 2001-07-26
  • Paul E. Adams
"It is not whether you get knocked down, it is whether you get up again" – Vince Lombard

Starting a new business is risky. In fact, most fail. The failure of a business touches many people: employees who lose their jobs, suppliers of goods and services that extend credit, investors who hope to make a profit, and, last but not least, the entrepreneur.

Unfortunately, many former owners of failed businesses may struggle for years in debt to creditors, lenders, and the Internal Revenue Service. Many will have lost not only their business, but also their homes, their personal possessions and their savings.

And, perhaps, even more tragic will be the possibility of divorce, the loss of self-confidence, and the general sense of failure as an individual. The failure of a business may be more devastating than the break up of a marriage.

Yet how many enthusiastic, optimistic and eager individuals about to launch a new business know or will even believe that eight out of 10 new business ventures fail?

If you are going to beat these odds, start by understanding who you are and why you want to be an entrepreneur.

A new entrepreneur brings to the venture his or her personality and character with all their respective problems and weaknesses. If an individual is disorganized in life, that disorganization will carry forth to the business. Poor personal habits become poor business habits.

The lack of discipline in daily living will be an undisciplined management style. Procrastination at home will translate to procrastination on the job. As psychologists point out, wherever we go, we take ourselves, with all our baggage.

Avoid a failing start with understanding yourself. Question yourself as to why you are going into business. What are your motives? Why are you willing to risk your money? Are your goals rational plans or emotional dreams?

Is it possible you are self-destructive? Are you aware that many entrepreneurs cause their own failure?

Some of us have an unconscious desire to create problems for ourselves. We set up and create situations that eventually lead to our own self-destruction. This type of behavior, driven by hidden motives we may not understand, is deadly in business.

When things go wrong do you blame others? Ask most who have failed in business who is at fault and the usual excuses will range from not enough money to unfair competition to disloyal customers to greedy suppliers. For a variety of reasons, a companion to failure is the denial of our part in it.

If you are in the habit of putting things off, be aware that procrastination is a major cause of failure. It is a personality trait that will place your business in jeopardy through neglect. It is a mask for other more deep- rooted problems that can stand in the way of success.

The problems of procrastination can show up in a number of ways that may not be easily recognizable.

If you have a fear of failing, it may be an excuse to put things off. "If I can't do it perfectly, I won't attempt it at all," is a way to cover up the fear of failing.

Is it possible you may have a fear of success? The fear of success is not easily recognizable, and it has been my experience and perhaps yours as well, that it is an unusual person who knows it. An entrepreneur with success phobia may be inviting failure.

Some business owners have a fear of letting go and moving on to new goals. Such rigidity can prevent the business from succeeding. Watch out for emotional attachments to the status quo.

If you are thinking about going into business or are struggling with your enterprise, take some time and discover your motivations. Write a private letter to yourself outlining why you want to be in business and what you expect of the business.