Entrepreneurs Never Fail. They Experiment.
The media loves to cover a good “rags to riches” startup story. In fact, I can’t think of a single startup success story in the news that doesn’t have some sort of Hollywood-type history to greatness. Somewhere along the line, the ups and downs turn into the stuff of legends. Journalists know we won’t read it unless it keeps our attention.
But, what happens to entrepreneurs when their companies fail? They’re usually financially, mentally, and physically broken. Their stories don’t make the news. When they do, the failure is not what the entrepreneur wants showcased.
More importantly, what do they do next?
I’m not sure about all of them, but I can tell you I’ve worked with more than a few. Here’s what I know…
When Your Startup Fails, Starting Over Doesn’t Come Easy
The Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief Model applies accurately in these cases. I’ve yet to work with an entrepreneur of a failed startup who hasn’t gone through DABDA (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance). Usually, they find me in the last two stages. If they can say the word “failed” in the same sentence as the name of their former company and admit they need help, then they are ready for coaching. Which is good, because they can be helped — but only when they are ready.
For those reading this who have a failed startup as a recent addition to their resume, here’s what I want to tell you:
Step 1: Remind Yourself You Are in an Elite Club
The first thing I tell entrepreneurs of a failed startup is they are members of an elite club. I call it the “Doers Society.” They stepped up and did something most other people don’t have the courage to do. They tried to build a business that would solve problems, make people’s lives better, and create jobs. OK, so it didn’t work out, but at least they tried. That’s special. It deserves a hat tip.
Step 2: Club Members Have Each Other’s Backs
All of us fellow business owners know what you went through. We feel your pain. We all struggle with the same challenges. While we put on a brave front that our businesses are the best thing since sliced bread, don’t be fooled. We’re all worrying about surviving. Fellow society members know a winning company today can become a losing one overnight. We know there is an element of luck involved and it wasn’t on your side this time.
You’re not alone. However, it feels lonely when your startup starts to die and ultimately fails because you are surrounded by employees who don’t feel about the business the way they do. Yes, they may love the idea of the business, they may even feel invested in it. But, it was never their “baby.” They never carried the weight of the entire success (and now the failure) of the business on their backs. We get that. We respect that. We’ve got your back.
Step 3: We’ll Help You When the Real You Returns
While your fellow society members want to help you, they won’t pitch in until you are done feeling sorry for yourself. They won’t promote damaged goods to their network. They need to be certain you are back. They need to feel the fire, see the energy, and experience the passion that you are known for. I actually LOVE this part of the process. Why? The entrepreneur and I get to build another startup model. But this time, it’s for their business-of-one. The personal brand of the entrepreneur gets a makeover. We figure out what they want to do next, and we create the new vision. They go from low to soaring. When you’re in the Doers Society, you know how to execute. You just need the idea. It’s your energy source. Once your back, your network will help you.
Step 4: Prepare for the, “Why Would You Want to Work for Us?” Discussion
For most entrepreneurs, after a failed startup, the next right move is to go back to work for someone else. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but necessary to regain financial, mental, and physical stability. You need to be ready to answer the tough question, “You’re an entrepreneur. Why would you want to work for us?”
This is when you need to be able to tell an objective story about your startup. You apply the Experience = Learn = Grow Model to your story. Which says:
- Here’s what happened.
- This is where we went wrong.
- Now, here’s how I want to use it to help another company succeed.
Here’s what I deeply believe: entrepreneurs NEVER fail. They experiment.Often times, the results aren’t what they expected. That can be disappointing. But, their real success comes when they use the results of those experiments to help improve the results of other businesses.
That’s what you have to offer an employer — and that’s worth a lot! All you need to do is show your worth to another aspiring entrepreneur, and they’ll see the value of bringing on someone who is battle-tested and lived to tell the story.
True story: I was talking to a very savvy CEO of a large company. When I asked him his favorite kind of manager to hire, he said, “Anyone who founded a startup and it failed.” When I asked why, he said, “They have respect for how hard it is to keep a company running. They think like an owner. We speak the same language and have the same priorities. They get it.” See what I mean about the elite club?
P.S. Don’t Drag Your Feet Too Long — You’ve Got Other People to Consider
One last piece of advice to all those entrepreneurs out there with failed startups: Don’t wallow too long. Your family and friends don’t understand what you’ve been through. They aren’t part of the Doers Society. They won’t have sympathy for you. They’ll want you to just grab any old job and accept the loss. They’ll offer all sorts of advice for your job search — most of which won’t apply to you and will just make you more upset.
The longer you sit in the early stages of DABDA, the less support you’ll get and the more difficult your personal relationships may become. You need to get back in the game and figure out your next move. Especially, if family and friends supported you financially during the startup phase. They won’t have much patience. While I’m not suggesting you settle, I am suggesting you show them you are on track and working toward the goal of a contributing positively again. Not only will it make your relationships better, you’ll feel better too because you’ll be on the road back to being able to eventually execute your next startup.
You’re a doer, remember?
Reference : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141124105410-7668018-entrepreneurs-never-fail-they-experiment