Why My First Business Failed? Yours Might Too
“To help yourself, you must be yourself. Be the best that you can be. When you make a mistake, learn from it, pick yourself up and move on.” – Dave Pelzer
I have always wanted to own a business. I have had this outrageously audacious goal since I was a kid and I knew that being an employee will never bring it to pass. I stuck to my dream of owning my business one day even when my dad suggested I get a job first.
One day after being fired from a job, I got the chance to start my business. Someone who has been watching me grows someone’s business approached me for partnership. He was going to foot the bill of whatever business I decided on. And true to his word, he provided the funding.
I was excited to add CEO as part of my title. I am in business now. I was told that with a vision, I can be successful in everything I wanted to do. Armed with a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), as taught by Jim Collins, I was hopeful that my days of lack and poverty were over. That hope quickly turned to despair a few months after we started.
Looking back now, I wish I knew what I know now. That would have helped with that startup. I made a mistake which I later learned from. The things we are told about starting and growing a business are not true. It doesn’t matter how big your vision is, if you don’t know what it takes to make a business work, the vision will be stillborn like mine was.
I see young people making the same mistake I made then. Running a business is not about hype. If you are not ready to do the hard part, the business will fail. Mine did. So has that of many other people. The economy or government policy is never the issue: you, what you know and do are the major factor behind how your business turns out.
Today I am glad that I failed when no one knew me. And that failure has turned out to be a great lesson for me that is helping me grow my business today and also coach young people.
It’s easier to teach about business than to do business. Everything I taught people then about running a business failed me. Learn from my mistakes so you don’t have to repeat it yourself. You only fail when you don’t learn from your mistakes.
1. I was Proud
I was young when I started and was my own cheerleader. I had knowledge which I had read in books. My head was big with knowledge but my heart was famished of wisdom. I thought I knew it all and no one could teach me. I had books I had read. So I started the business with the attitude that made me unteachable. I see this in many people today.
It’s really true that pride goes before the fall. But in my case, I had already fallen right before I started. I had a closed mind most especially to goal setting, strategic planning, budgeting, and selling.
Pride made me have more workers than I could afford to pay. Instead of focusing on building an organization, I was engaged in activities that whetted my ego just to impress people.
A few months later, my partner and I agreed to close up the business. At that time, I was struggling with weevils over beans that I was to eat. It really got that bad. That’s what pride does. You get humbled because knowledge only has potential power to make things happen.
“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.” – Morihei Ueshiba
2. I lacked the Capacity to Grow Business
Sam Adeyemi was asked what he will do differently if he were to start all over. He answered that he would take longer to prepare for what he is doing now because he would be doing it for the rest of his life. I started the business without preparing.
I just left employment and transitioned from an employee to entrepreneur with an employee mindset. That is a disaster. I had no capacity to run a business. I was used to someone paying my salary then and that continued. At a point, I unconsciously was waiting for a “boss” to tell me what to do.
A business will only work based on the capacity of the owner and will only grow to the extent the owner is growing. I should have taken months to build my capacity to build a business and grow myself to be able to grow it. But I was in a hurry. I wanted my business to grow like yesterday.
Today, I see more young people who have no time to prepare for what they are going to do for the rest of their lives. They are in a hurry to “hammer.”
To start what I am doing now, it took me 3 years to prepare. I read 500 books in 6 months. I practiced and practiced. I listened to audio programs and watched videos. I became intentional about growing my capacity. Shallow preparation will result in mediocre manifestation but deep qualitative preparation will result in excellent manifestation. I learned.
The capacity I started with was not able to grow and sustain the business. So it stagnated. It’s hard to grow your capacity in the heat of a business challenge. It must have become a habit before you start the business. Preparation time is the best time to build habits.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein
3. I Didn’t Design the Business
We love to have business plans. It shows we are really planning something big and of course, it impresses people. But having a business plan without first designing the business will not make the business work. Most business plans are useless the moment you start the business. A business design on the other hands shows you how your business will work.
I had a plan but no design. When I was hit by a challenge I had not anticipated, I abandoned my plan. I became confused and started making uncoordinated activities. That is, doing a series of activities doesn’t mean the business is making progress. Being busy doesn’t mean you are achieving something and being productive.
Make sure you design your business and know the value you are creating, who to deliver and how, and how to get paid before you start the business. Your business design should feed your business plan and not the other way around.
“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” – Theodore Roosevelt
4. Focusing on Money
Don’t get me wrong here. I really wanted to serve people and give them value. But that was not my aim of starting the business. It was to make money pure and simple. And when it wasn’t coming I became desperate and the market must have sensed my desperation, because they stayed away.
I took it for granted that the customer will definitely buy from me whatever I offered and at the price that I offered it. I was even obscure yet I wanted to dictate things to the market. Such arrogance. I thought I knew it all, remember!
The best way to build a business is to focus on adding value to the customer and being humble about it. Money is the by-product of satisfying the customer. So today we spend most of our time creating more value for the customer than just trying to get money. When we see a need in the life of people, we hurriedly work on how to meet that need.
“A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.” – Roy H. Williams
I have learned from my mistake. You don’t have to make one. Foolish people make their own mistakes, while wise people learn from the mistakes of others and don’t have to repeat it. What about you?
Do you want to take the plunge and start a business? We can help you design your psychology and the business to grow.
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