How to use failure to accelerate success

Failure is an integral part of every entrepreneur’s journey to true success. I can guarantee that every person reading this has failed in some respect on their path through life so far. But failure doesn’t equate to loss – instead it encourages, and often accelerates, your future success.

Consider learning to walk as a child. At first, your legs are jelly – you don’t have the confidence or the knowledge to stand up, let alone make full use of their potential. But persistence, and encouragement from those around you, drives you from a crawl to a walk.

As you grow, so does your confidence and your experience, until eventually you’re running – sprinting – and seeing how far you can push yourself beyond what was once an unimaginable task.

This same attitude toward failure applies to success in business and, fortunately, I’ve never had any truly catastrophic failures. In fact, if you approach business with the mentality that you are willing to risk losing what you put in financially, any loss can be transformed into a future victory.

I’d like to talk about one notable failure early in my business career, and the many valuable lessons it taught me.

Failure: General insurance comparison website

Cost: $25,000 invested and a lot of valuable time

In the UK, the vast majority of car, home, and contents insurance is bought online through aggregators – websites designed to deliver the best deal to the customer. When I moved to New Zealand in 2009, I was surprised to find that none existed in the general insurance sector, and instantly saw a gap in the market.

With an initial investment of $25,000, I built a formidable and talented team, including software engineers, entrepreneurs, and the former head of one of New Zealand’s largest insurers. We soon gained traction with a few insurers, which propelled our business to board-level discussions with every major insurer at the time.

Ultimately, we were waylaid in our success. The main reason was likely a fear of commoditising insurance and eroding the profit margins for a few major companies.

Soon after, I was contacted by the team at Fair Go, to see if I wanted to use their show to bring this issue to light. Despite my investment and knowing the value of my idea, I decided that with my first child on the way and four staff at Pure SEO, the timing was wrong to pick a fight no matter how much I had invested.

Success: Building client relationships and life-long connections

There are many ways this situation helped accelerate my success:

  • One insurer we spoke with didn’t offer general insurance. However, they did sign up for SEO with Pure SEO, and remained a loyal client for nearly eight years.
  • The knowledge we gained during the website build enabled us to sign up another insurer for a large, one-off analytics job.
  • The experience I gained pitching my idea to the boards of insurance companies helped me gain confidence, and the proficiency to pitch at any level.
  • I learnt that when approaching a large corporate, it is better to aim higher and be directed downwards than aim lower and hope to be directed up.

This also led to my involvement with ‘The Icehouse’. The education and connections I gained from them still benefit me to this day and have helped shaped my current success. In fact, I became friends with the Head of Marketing at one of those major insurance companies, and still count her as a friend. Priceless.

To succeed in both business and life, we must accept that by our own hand or someone else, we will fail. What we take away from this to nurture and accelerate our success is entirely down to the belief you have in yourself, and your resilience as a businessman in the face of failure.

Remember: everyone must learn to walk, it’s only through failing and picking ourselves up again that we can find the confidence to run.