I’ve spoken before about how failure can help accelerate success in both your personal and business life, but both admitting and learning from our mistakes is a constant requirement of business leaders, no matter what stage they or their company may be in.
Making mistakes is something we all do, however extracting and using the learnings from them is the key to developing ourselves and – ideally – not repeating them.
I have made many mistakes over the past decade and I have no problem admitting this. Some of these were big and expensive, while others were smaller but no less of a learning experience. Here are three mistakes I’ve made in the past and what I learned from each of them:
Allowing work to become a grind
The most recent mistake I made was, admittedly, quite a big one. I allowed myself to get sucked back into the day-to-day operations of running my business, in a way that ultimately became unenjoyable. I have an extremely capable team at Pure, however I found myself slowly being drawn back into the micro details of the business and exerting energy into unnecessary tasks. It became so bad that I started to feel work was becoming a real grind and I was questioning whether it was all worth the effort.
I solved this by taking a piece of paper and writing down the things I didn’t enjoy about my role on one side and the things I love on the other. As it turned out, it was likely my ego bringing me into the details of the business when I was not really needed, which prevented me from doing my best – and enjoying it! I simply stopped and took a step back, delegated anything I did not enjoy to capable staff members, and started focussing on the good stuff again. The result? Three record months of new business for the company.
Despite its recent and consistent growth, Pure is still a relatively small organisation (55 people), which means there is a tendency for a few people to get promoted in our organisation, and for others to hit a glass ceiling and feel forced to move on to progress their own career.
One person that I promoted to a high position in the organisation turned out to be a huge mistake. They were tasked with continually improving our product and leading the team, but while they had been great in many aspects, this new role simply wasn’t for them. Unfortunately, during their year in the role, the product stagnated and may even went backwards.
The solution to this was thrust on me fortunately as the person in question handed in their notice. Subsequently, I have put much greater consideration into who I place in these higher roles, and now have a head of product and team leader I feel confident to stand behind. It may have cost me more financially, but the benefit outweighs the cost many times over.
Choosing quantity over quality
In the past, we have taken on the wrong type of business just for the revenue. This is a common mistake and one that often turns out to be more trouble than it’s worth. Admittedly, it is really hard to say no when someone is asking you to sign a contract whereby they pay you thousands every month. Ultimately, however, every time we have entered into an agreement like this, neither party has seen success: we received revenue, but scrambled to deliver the product, and ultimately refunded the fees. The client did not receive the value or service they wanted and we wasted valuable time possibly spent elsewhere.
Allowing money to completely influence your business decisions means losing track of the passion which led you to start your business in the first place. We will now turn away clients we are not best-suited to assist, recommending them to someone else who we feel will do a good job. This way, we do what is right and the client gets the service they deserve.
Another bonus of this approach is that doing so leads to an unintended, positive consequence: we get a lot more referral work from both the clients we turned away and the suppliers we recommend.
Final thoughts on failure
As an entrepreneur, it’s important that I continue to learn, both from my own mistakes and successes, but those of others too. I’m fortunate to be part of group of six other entrepreneurs who share their experiences with each other in order to recognise the patterns and signals of great mistakes and failures.
Our mastermind group functions on the Gestalt laws of grouping, a principle of psychology which indicates that humans have a natural disposition to observe and recognise patterns in behaviour and events. By sharing our experiences – rather than our advice – we are remembering that learning from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, is key.
The is no reason to strive for failure and mistakes in life – instead, the key is to accept that they will inevitably happen and to minimise their occurrence and impact as much as possible through self-assessment, critical thinking, and personal growth.