This post is part of our StartupDad Series, in which David Moody — father of a teen entrepreneur and founder of the StartupDad blog — explores the trials, tribulations, joys, and achievements that young entrepreneurs and their friends and family face.
There have been many articles and blog posts in recent years addressing failure as part of the startup process. I’ve written about it myself. While failure is, to some degree, inevitable in entrepreneurial pursuits, as in life, it should never be expected or accepted as satisfactory.
Some people in the startup scene discuss failure as though it is required for future success. It sounds like we are telling inexperienced entrepreneurs that they need to get their first failure, or two, under their belts so they have something to talk about, and so their eventual story of success is even more compelling. Let me be clear, failure is not some startup merit badge. Startup failure is not a goal, it’s not a personal brand marketing strategy, and it’s not a required milestone for success.
For the purpose of this blog post, let’s clarify the context of the term “failure.” I’m talking about the ultimate failure of a product or failure of a company. Failure of a company becomes even more significant when it has been funded by friends, family, or fools — especially if those “fools” were local investors. When investments by locals go bad, many entrepreneurs may never get a second chance with those investors. If entrepreneurs have not developed a network of potential investors outside their local region, this could mean they will have to self-fund any future startup efforts.
Entrepreneurs must use every resource at their disposal to develop products and services that consumers want, and then build sustainable companies around those products. Failure is never a goal in this process. However, when small failures occur, and they will in the normal course of events, they are important because they give us an opportunity to learn. Failure is only a good thing if we squeeze all the learning out of it and then apply what we learned to improve performance and avoid mistakes in the future. In that regard, failure can serve as fuel for the fire of success.
THE TAKEAWAY: While small failures are a normal part of the entrepreneurial learning process and should be embraced as a potential learning opportunity, we should never expect it, accept it as inevitable, or become comfortable with it. Finally, I agree with the idea that “people don’t fail, businesses do.” In my opinion, people can fail, but we do so only when we quit making our best effort to succeed.