The 10 business lessons learnt through failure

By Jan Badenhorst, CEO of Skills Academy

Below, I share the lessons I learned through my many failures in the hopes that other aspiring businessmen and women will feel inspired enough to take the next step towards achieving success.

1. The first step is the hardest
One of the biggest lessons I learnt in my career is knowing when to walk away from anything that no longer grows or challenges you. Choosing to become an entrepreneur is easily one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it has also been the most rewarding. Take the plunge and start the business you been dreaming of but told yourself is too risky. My current business took 1000 days to build up to critical mass and profitability. It all begins with taking that first step.

2. Don’t quit: every step counts
Success or failure is dependent upon whether or not you keep at it. By taking one more step towards your goals every day, you increase the possibility of becoming a success. Having a vision and consistently working towards this vision, multiplies your chances of success. My advice? Never quit. Winners are people who are too stupid to give up.

3. Having too much capital masks your businesses actual success/ failure
You only learn how to make a business work, once the money runs out. While you have the luxury to live on capital, you can avoid the tough decisions needed to make a business work. However, once the money is gone, you learn, and fast!

4. Establish a strong foundation from which your business can grow
In the early days of running a business, money is scarce but if you take it day by day and do what you can, eventually things turn around. Take the time in the beginning stages of your business to establish a strong foundation, as once you start growing rapidly, the business will need the support to sustain its growth.

5. Take as many risks as possible
As an entrepreneur taking risks is part of growth, and if you stop taking risks you and your business’s growth will stagnate. Whether the risk ends up being a success or failure doesn’t matter, as it is most definitely always a lesson. Some of the wealthiest businesspeople in the world have been bankrupt more than once.

6. Marketing is the voice of your business
I learned this when I took a failing business and turned it into a success just by changing the way I was marketing my business. This was when I realised that there are very few problems that can’t be solved by a few extra sales. How you sell your businesses as well as the campaigns and strategies you use, can make or break your business, so it is important to know what you are doing or use people who do.

7. Thinking your first business must be a success
One of the biggest assets that would enable me to build a successful business in 1000 days was gained through having built a failing business. Failure is an opportunity to learn how to do things better and enables you to handle success. It is also often easier to start over than it is to fix a big broken business.

8. Underestimating the role organisational culture plays in your business
Employees are a business’s most valuable asset by creating a culture of respect and honesty you create a positive environment that encourages growth. By keeping your employees informed you instil brand loyalty and accountability within your organisation. In my experience, I learnt that when you luck upon the right people, you do what you can to hold on to them, as the right employees are unbelievably valuable.

9. Integrity and good business relationships matter
When my business was going through a tough time, and I was looking for ways to keep going, the only thing that saved me was the business relationships I had established. It was these relationships that allowed me to play open cards with my service providers and negotiate longer payment terms, which gave me the time I needed to get my business back on track.

10. Doubting yourself and your ability to succeed is your biggest weakness
Success begins through believing in what you do. Don’t let other people discourage you in your path to success. When I started my entrepreneurial journey, many people didn’t believe that I had created a sustainable business model, but it didn’t matter as I was following my passion. Passion is the driver of success if you have passion you are halfway there, if you don’t have passion, chances are your business won’t succeed.

Entrepreneurship is about taking calculated risks and playing the odds; but if you keep at, success is inevitable. The only real failure is giving up or not starting and often the seeds to success can be found in the heart of failure.