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Lessons From Failure Every Entrepreneur Needs To Know

 A successful business is like a rollercoaster with many ups and downs. Many business owners give up too quickly,  so we want to share lessons from failure every entrepreneur needs to know, that can help you lead a more productive and fulfilling entrepreneurial journey.

To help provide some insight on how to navigate a business you’re proud of, here are the 10 biggest lessons from failure every entrepreneur needs to know:

1. Your company’s focus comes with trial and error.

Dan Greenberg, co-founder/CEO of Sharethrough. “One of my biggest lessons in building a business came in the first year of Sharethrough — I learned that you can’t build a business with two centers of gravity.

Your center of gravity isn’t your product, your customers, or your market. Rather, your true center of gravity is somewhere at the intersection of what you’re passionate about + what problem you want to solve + why that problem matters.

For Sharethrough today, our center of gravity is to monetize the modern internet with meaningful content, beyond obnoxious ads. We believe that advertising can be high quality and valuable to the user who sees it, that ads can be clean, and well-integrated into the site they live on.

In the early days of Sharethrough, we didn’t have that clarity of focus, and it took us a few years to learn that lesson”.


2. Mistakes will surface new opportunities.

Meridith Valiando Rojas, co-founder/CEO DigiTour Media. “The greatest lesson I learned was that mistakes will not end your business. If you are nimble and willing to listen to constructive criticism you can excel by learning and evolving. In my experience as an entrepreneur, there have been times, especially early on, when I encountered issues that appeared to be insurmountable.

For example, when I managed an artist on Capitol Records that got dropped, I felt like a devastating failure. But in truth, it showed me how vital social media is to breaking talent in this new world order. If I never failed with that project, I would not have realized the importance of social media and its impact on traditional media.

From that, I developed a new set of skills, which led me to co-found DigiTour. With a lot of persistence and a willingness to be flexible, we were able to overcome obstacles and prove we are a brand with staying power. I have learned not to get too excited or too defeated as I build my business. Each day is like a roller coaster filled with ups, downs, thrills, and unexpected turns”.

Related Video: How To Avoid Costly Mistakes Other Entrepreneurs Have Made


3. Use your negative experiences to regroup

Michael A. Stelzner, CEO/founder of Social Media Examiner and MyKidsAdventures.com. “The biggest failure I ever had was when I invested in a $2000 program that promised if I simply followed their suggestions I would make a ton of money. I did precisely what they suggested and it was a huge failure. And ethically I felt disgusting. The return rate was off the charts and it was a dismal experience.

I used all those negative experiences to regroup and figured out a way to launch events that fit within my comfort zone. What ended up happening was the birth of my online summits. Eventually, the Social Media Success Summit was born.

It was such a huge success that I launched a new experimental website called SocialMediaExaminer.com back in 2009. Turned out I was on to something. Today millions of people visit our site and it is one of the largest business blogs on the planet. So moral of the story: let your failures clear your deck, much like a forest fire, so new ideas can be born. You never know, one of those ideas might turn out to be a mighty oak”!


4. Pay attention to your customers first

Jon Beekman, founder/CEO of Man Crates. “Though my previous company was ultimately a failure, it taught me a very valuable lesson: be maniacally focused on your customers.

We had a great idea and the smartest tech team, but we fell in love with our technology and our concept of what the customer wanted, rather than actually talking to consumers to hear their feedback directly.

When we did finally hear customer feedback, we were too far down the road to change our idea and the company failed.

With Man Crates, I treat customers as co-creators helping to direct the company. This customer feedback loop is a core part of our DNA — it’s part of who we are as a company. It was an expensive lesson, but a priceless one in my experience”.


5. Use data to help fail less often

Larry Kim, founder of WordStream. “Failures are unavoidable and ridiculously costly for start-ups with little time and money. So often start-ups invest huge resources into big product or marketing initiatives.

Naturally, we want to believe that our hard work has paid off, yet the reality is that a very small number of those projects will actually produce large-scale, lasting benefits – most will have no impact at all on your business, and some will even make things worse.

The key to success, therefore, is in trying to fail slightly less often by using more data rather than gut feel in the project planning phases, and not letting projects that fail to meet their success criteria linger around for too long”.


6. The quality of your team will make or break you

Kiran Bellubbi, founder/CEO of Applauze. When you fail at something – say your product doesn’t scale to the level you expected, revenues slump, or your rate of growth stalls – great teams use their shared experience to figure out what went wrong and develop a solution that generates results even better than previously thought possible”.

Success is contingent on teams that are persistent, trust each other and learn from their failures.


7. Being adaptable is the real test

Carrie Kerpen, CEO/co-founder of Likeable Media. “Here’s what I’ve learned. The best-laid plans don’t always work out as you’d expect. The real test is how adaptable you are when things don’t go the way you’d planned.

It’s how you adjust after failure that demonstrates your strength in leadership. Did you take what you learned and did you use it to better your plan for the next time? That’s the key”.


8. The worst decision is indecision

Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow. “One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned isn’t from a particular failure but from missed opportunity: the worst decision is indecision. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to move quickly and go with your gut. If you don’t, you could miss out on things that can help your business immensely.

It can be nerve-wracking but it’s important to get products out there and use data to see whether it’s working. I think the best process is this: Release, Review, Optimize, Iterate, and Repeat.

Also, at the end of the day, there is no right way or one way to run a business. When you start a company, you think there is a road map or Holy Grail to success. There isn’t. I used to be so focused on doing things precisely like others who had success before me to avoid hitting snags, but that can ultimately hold you back. Ask questions, acquire mentors, gather knowledge and then make an educated decision and do what’s best for your business”.


9. Think simple from the start

Neil Patel, founder CrazyEgg and KISSmetrics. “The single biggest lesson I learned is that you need to make your solution simple. I’ve had a lot of businesses fail and typically the failure wasn’t due to the idea. Instead, the solution was complicated and hard to use. By making your product really easy to use you are more likely to succeed”.


10. Tomorrow is always another day

Scott Gerber, founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC). “The most important part of failing is realizing tomorrow will offer another day to get it right. Earlier in my entrepreneurial career, I took failures very personally. One “big failure” would get me down for days, and in some instances diminish my confidence and productivity for weeks.

It wasn’t until after my first business went under and I started my second–and, ultimately my first successful company–that I realized how important it is to take failures as lessons learned rather than hard knocks.

My second business was stronger as a result of the lessons learned on my first go around. Now, my companies minimize the potential for failures by shrinking our downside on any single decision. As a result, we get back up stronger and faster when we do face a setback, and the sun usually ends up shining brighter in the days to come as a result”.


These are the 10 biggest lessons from failure every entrepreneur needs to know. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from a failure in your business? Please share your experiences in the comments below.


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