Most people argue that “failure” is a dirty word and something you should avoid at all costs, especially in the world of business. In the media, we are constantly bombarded with cliché images and stories of how successful people have accomplished fame, wealth and ultimate success in their line of work. Some of the common beliefs are that having ego, pride, self-confidence and other traits pivoting around self-importance could be the key to success. To make things worse, if you experience failure in any shape or form, you are seen as a misfit or a person with limited potential.
The sad truth is the media is misguiding the public, especially young aspiring entrepreneurs, and intentionally ignoring other key ingredients that constitute the path to success — like humility, passion, conviction, tolerance to failure and the willingness to put in the “hard yards.” As an entrepreneurship coach, I am all too familiar with the reality that today’s generation of business owners are particularly impatient and intolerant to setbacks as they pursue this journey.
The jagged road.
The path for any aspiring serial entrepreneur is a long-term prospect, most often ending abruptly with no rewarding outcome. It’s a lonely jagged road, full of challenges, fears and painful experiences. I recall my early humble years in business and the constant challenges I faced — dealing with the sceptics, the dirty tricks my competitors played to force me out of the industry, the avalanche of staffing issues. Without a doubt, my patience, tolerance and desire to be a successful entrepreneur myself was tested time and time again.
In a recent with Aussie serial entrepreneur Janine Allis, I was able to mirror these experiences with those of Allis, and intimately explore her successful 16-year career within the retail industry. I was curious to understand her positive philosophy to failure and how she embraced it while building her fame and fortune in the business world.
The entrepreneurial spirit.
Without a doubt, Allis is an icon within the Australian business community, having built her Boost Juice business from her home into a global juicing empire across 13 countries. Her retail investments, comprising also of Salsas Fresh Mix Grill and Cibo Espresso, yield $2 billion dollars in sales annually. Her story to success is testament to her tenacity, determination and entrepreneurial spirit.
During my discussion with Allis, I discovered that effective leadership is about having humility, being accountable to mistakes and being willing to sacrifice and serve others as opposed to having hubris or narcissistic traits. These are common threads among other great entrepreneurs. Some of my favorites include Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey.
A catalyst to innovation.
In 1985, Steve Jobs was the man who soon became known as “the entrepreneur who hit rock bottom,” after his failed attempts at Apple. His story of failure is not uncommon, and it clearly illustrates the realities and hardships that serial entrepreneurs face.
Despite such humiliating circumstances, Jobs returned to Apple with a new attitude — and the rest is iHistory. He discovered the importance of humility and effective leadership on his endeavour of rebuilding his empire and his reputation.
So what can we learn from this story and those of others? What impact does failure have on innovation and achieving long term success? “If things didn’t go wrong, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” Allis said. “I wouldn’t have a business with the right culture, systems, products. You have to make mistakes [to innovate].”
Education is paramount.
We observe time and time again case studies and testimonials from successful people about the importance of failure. As educators, teachers and mentors, we must teach our youth how to interpret and manage failure, as well as accepting it in life and within our careers with a positive attitude.
It is my view that a successful career shouldn’t be just about going to a university and securing the right qualification for the right job. In contrast, educators must encourage students to also learn in real workplace enviroments. This philosophy is shared by education provider . Students are encouraged to experiment and adapt their thoughts in a real commercial environment, as well as develop their skills to best handle setbacks while pursuing their commercial endeavours within the company.
In Australia, we must go one step further and also tackle the “Tall Poppy Syndrome,” which is prevalent within corporate workplace culture. This issue has derailed many aspiring intrapreneurs, as well as prevented innovation and new product developments to flourish through fail testing.
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