Learn Success By Responding To Failure

Friday, February 3, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 5
By Chris Crouch

There is a place of business I enjoy visiting on my trips to another city. The business is always well-stocked with interesting items, the employees are knowledgeable and friendly and the prices are reasonable. All in all, it looks as if they have come up with a pretty good formula for business success.

On a recent visit to the city, I drove a little faster than normal because I wanted to get to the place of business before they closed for the day.

The good news – I made it in plenty of time to leisurely browse around. The bad news – when I pulled up in front of the store, it looked dark, empty and abandoned. There was no sign on the door that said, “We have moved.” There was absolutely no indication of what happened or what was currently going on with the business. Everything and everybody was just gone. When I checked with a few locals, they told me that after many years the store had gone out of business.

Over the next few days I was conscious of the fact that our environment is littered with empty storefronts. It is easy to pass these abandoned businesses and not think much about them.

However, if you do take the time to think of them, you realize each one is probably evidence of a sad story – the failure of a dream. At some point in time, the same storefront represented a joyful story. For someone, the business represented the beginning of a new dream. I believe one of the causes of this dream reversal is the fact that some business owners are not as skilled as they need to be in the art of responding to failure.

One way to define most small businesses is to refer to them as failure-processing entities. No one successfully builds a business without failing and adjusting over and over. You often learn to do things right by doing them wrong. And this brings up something interesting that you should know about the art of processing and responding to failure.

There are two big issues you need to focus on when it comes to failure – quitting too soon and not stopping soon enough.

I bring this up because I believe most businesspeople are pretty good at the “not quitting too soon” option. This trait gets hammered into most of us during our formal and informal education. During tough times, people love to remind you of Winston Churchill’s quote, “Never, never, never, never give up.” I agree there is a time and a place for a never-give-up attitude.

However, here’s my counter-quote for you, “Never, never, never, never keep doing something that is clearly not working.” Don’t be the Charlie Brown of the business world. Don’t keep trying to kick the ball if Lucy is holding it. Be persistent when it is appropriate. But also avoid the mistake of not stopping soon enough.

Take a look at your business. What should you stop doing?

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.