The nights were the worst. Those few moments after your head hits the pillow, you take that big breath in and the thoughts of the day begin to drift away. Then the assault would begin. What have I done? Was leaving my old, hi-paying, secure, boring job a mistake? Would I lose my house? My family? At nearly forty years old, I may have just forfeited my biggest earning years. I told myself I didn’t want to burden my wife with too much bad news. What I really didn’t want to hear was an objective opinion on why was I still going. Maybe it was time I give up, get a real job again.
All of those realities meant I had failed. I failed myself, my partner, my customers and employees. I always believed that if you were honest, worked hard and were a good person, success would find you. In my mind, failure was a function of determination and will. Those that failed cracked under the stress, quit too early, or were just not bright enough to figure it out. Just like a minor league athlete who only dreams of the bigs, the day comes when you need to face reality. There are many things I would do differently now but I would still take the risk. I am not sure if how the final chapter will play out but… I am still optimistic about it.
The wisdom of failure:
1) Bootstrap until you absolutely need to buy new equipment, a new office, or hire new employees. You should be turning business away before you increase your overhead.
2) Build relationships. This is the single most important point here. Your friends and colleagues know you and want you to succeed.
3) Execution – Proper execution will beat out better products every day. There are thousands of mediocre products in the market place because someone is successfully marketing, selling and delivering on those orders. You don’t have to invent the magic product, just execute better than your competition.
4) Involve your landlord and creditors early. It is expensive to find new tenants and most landlords are willing to work out a payment plan if you are upfront about your cash flow problems. Banks won’t forgo any payments but they may let you pay the interest only on your balance for a period of time.
5) Be a realist. Measure your progress against a forecast and use outside reviewers like your accountant, spouse or colleagues to advise you. Don’t trust yourself in times of financial despair.