Business & Management

How to Fail With Your Business

Every week, I have the opportunity to engage with new founders who share their company's compelling vision and the challenges they face. Through my experiences, I have witnessed one characteristic that allows me to quickly assess which of these founders have the potential to succeed despite the obstacles, and which ones are likely to encounter significant failure.

Hold on tight, because the secret habit that leads to failure could very likely apply to you as well, as it is often part of Western culture.

Facing problems

When I started with my first startup there were a lot of things going on in the world. At the time when we commenced mass production of our product, we had secured 20 B2B customers eager to list our offerings, which appeared to be a promising start. However, the production process proved to be time-consuming due to the stringent standards in the food industry. It took us a considerable seven months from the decision to produce until we held the finished product in our hand.

Unfortunately, the global economy underwent significant changes within those 7 months. Our product is highly dependent on soybeans, whose price tripled during this period, which had a significant financial impact on our company.

At the same time, customers became more cautious about onboarding new products, unsure of the long-term impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior. Would individuals continue to purchase groceries online if they were no longer required to wear masks in supermarkets? Or would the online grocery sector experience further growth as people had grown accustomed to the convenience of this new shopping paradigm?

This uncertainty in the market led to the loss of 17 potential customers who broke their commitments, leaving us with a total inventory of 7,500 products and close to no buyers.

The two choices you have when failing

Faced with that, I had the following choice to make: to either blame the potential buyers who withdrew their orders or to take personal responsibility and learn valuable life lessons from the experience. While the latter option was undoubtedly more challenging, I chose it.

However, this proved to be a more difficult task than I thought, as you might imagine, when you have 7500 products in stock that also have a best before date and it is the first mass production. That means, we had not achieved any day-to-day business before with which we could compensate. So the answers I received shocked me at first and I was more than surprised when I received the exact same rejection from 17 dealers. I had to realize how naive it was to accept their promises without considering the possible consequences if their decisions changed.

The only choice that makes you grow in the process

This decisive moment taught me one of the most important lessons of my life: trust in actions and not in mere words. A true purchase is shown only when the money arrives in my bank account, not by mere words. BUT I was only able to change my behavior that led to this when I realized and accepted that trusting the words of the merchants was MY mistake. If I had blamed them for rejecting their orders, I might have done the same with others. The only basic choice you have when faced with problems in your business or even in your personal life is to recognize what mistakes you made that allowed this to happen. There is no point in blaming others, as this will only put you in a position of victimization that will make you lose all ability to act and grow.

Taking responsibility for everything

A principle derived from the Navy SEALs, known as "extreme ownership," advocates taking responsibility for every aspect of one's life. Imagine you are sitting on a train about to get off at the next stop when someone passing you accidentally spills their coffee on you. What would you do?

You have the same two choices: Either blame the other person for their carelessness, or take responsibility and apologize for not being careful enough, acknowledging that the person needed more space.

Yes, this may sound a bit extreme, and you may be thinking, "But I'm not responsible for someone else's mistakes," but there's a reason for doing this. Taking responsibility is like exercising a muscle: the more you do it, the better you get at it. It's the simple task of habit formation, like training the muscle memory of your responsibility muscle, that allows you to take responsibility for the really hard things when you have to. When you choose to blame others, even for minor things, you train yourself to be a victim, which doesn't allow you to grow and learn from your mistakes. Instead, if you reflect on your behavior, you can go in a different direction and choose other options that will allow you to be successful in the future.

It is your choice

Although this concept may initially appear overwhelming, I assure you that practicing ownership and assuming responsibility for even the smallest matters empowers you to effect positive change in your circumstances. Ownership enables you to implement optimization measures, take proactive steps, and exert influence, rather than feeling powerless in the face of external forces.

Therefore, the most important habit I find in successful founders is the practice of extreme ownership. At the same time, the habit of blaming others, even market conditions or their parents, is the single habit that most often leads to a founder's failure. Even if they have had a great career in a company, as a founder there is no longer a boss or coworker to blame. There is no one more in control than yourself. You just need to be aware of this fact and use it to your advantage and that of your company.

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I am Adriana, Entrepreneur, freethinker and digital enthusiast with a love for marketing, business models and new technologies in Zurich.
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