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How to fail-proof your business

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. No doubt these words have been relayed to you countless times over your life — from the classroom to the boardroom and everywhere in between. And they’re words that you shouldn’t forget in a hurry.

In business and in life, learning from your mistakes should be your number one priority. Running a close second is learning from other people’s mistakes. (Trust me, this second option is a lot less painful!)

Each week we look to those at the top of their game for business lessons. As they share their secrets to success, one thing is apparent right across the board — it’s a long way to the top, and often the road isn’t an easy one. Success is like healthy hair — it won’t happen overnight but if you keep trying it will happen!

So, when I speak to those who make the grade for ‘business success’, I always ask them about the hard times. When did they get it wrong? How did they make it right? And, how did they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again?

After more than two decades in this game, these are the stories I find the most inspiring!

Entrepreneur Tim Pethick didn’t just wake up one morning to business success.

His first business out of school was a company called Video Space — putting advertising on rental videos — and it was an “abysmal failure” (and yes, those are his words, not mine!). 

“It was a new advertising medium and in those days there were 22 film and video companies in this country and I had deals with 16 or 17 of them for all their space. So I sold the concept to advertisers and advertising agencies,” says Pethick.

“Oh, it was awful … It failed not because it wasn’t a sensible idea, or a little ahead of its time, but because of advertising agencies. We couldn’t get through the agencies. After a while I’d go direct to advertisers and the first thing they’d do is go to the advertising agencies and say ‘What do you think of this?’ It’s the first time I bumped into traditional conventional thinking that was incredibly resistant to change.”

Pethick admits he felt rejected after this early brush with business, and retreated into professional life. Here, he chased equity, becoming a partner in a firm of chartered accountants, but that lasted a mere 12 months or so and only then because struggling entrepreneurs kept him interested. Here, Pethick came to understand that failure can breed success.

Pethick served time with the then-State Bank of New South Wales, working with the Bank's troubled business customers before they hit insolvency.

“I came across a bunch of interesting businesses and invariably I’d go in and look at a business, decide whether or not I thought there was any future in it and, if there was, knowing that these troubled businesses couldn’t pay my fees, I’d take an interest in the business.”

From here, the only way was up and it proved just a few more business ventures until Pethick kicked off his successful juice company, nudie. That’s not to say it’s all been smooth sailing since then for Pethick — when he was at nudie, the business copped not one but two production-halting fires. The second of which bore ‘fire fighting nudie’ — a special-edition juice that sold exceptionally well. The lesson? Pethick looked on the bright side and considered it an opportunity to take a good look at the business to improve his product offering.

Pethick may be an eternal optimist, but for many of us, when faced with challenges, often it’s all too easy to give up.

Nobody knows this better than the man once regarded as the boy genius of Australian advertising — Siimon Reynolds. The mastermind behind the famously chilling grim reaper AIDS TV campaign, Reynolds is now an entrepreneur, speaker and author. He wrote his latest book — Why People Fail — to show everybody that failure is the most common element of success.

“I heard a great expression about this — ‘when you succeed, you party, and when you fail, you ponder’,” he says. “I have certainly found in my life when I have failed to get what [I want] to achieve, you’ve got to think about it, you’ve got to redo things.”

Reynolds says the foundation of Why People Fail is “optimism, even though I’m talking about failure”. Reynolds believes the number one reason people fail is lack of clarity. Failure, he adds, gives you this clarity. And, fear “unequivocally” is the thing that holds people back and the “essence of fear is focus”.

So, ask yourself —where are you failing in your business and how can you use this opportunity to improve your business? Oh, and one last word of advice — when doing this exercise, remember honesty is the best policy!

Work on your business, not in it. To learn how, book a complimentary business assessment today with a Switzer Business Coach.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.



Published on: Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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