By Rading Biko
They say failure is harsh, unforgiving and brutal but again failure does not see skin color, ethnicity or socio-economic background. It is an equal-opportunity offender and is always lurking just around the corner. As an entrepreneur, the likelihood that your company will be worth US$1-billion one day is less than 1 in 10 000, or 0.0001%. Even for those that just do “okay”, the attrition rate of startups in Africa is roughly 50%.
If you are going to build a business, or go into business for yourself, you are signing up for some sort of failure. But that is a good thing? So should entrepreneurs embrace failure??Well research has found out that they should indeed>
Failure oftentimes is not our fault
Perhaps we all remember the Palm Pilot? A fixture in the hands of A-Type personalities in the 90’s, it was the undisputed market leader in electronic time management. What started as a personal data organizer (PDA) became the forerunner of the modern Smartphone.
On a Palm Pilot, you could install apps developed by outside software vendors. One of these vendors created a comprehensive software enhancement for the Palm Pilot that offered increased functionality, including the ability to send payments online. This software company, called Confinity, focused almost all of their resources on the Palm OS ecosystem.
According to Peter Cohan an online entrepreneur writer, the company struggled to gain traction as the Palm OS became increasingly antiquated. As the Blackberry and then the iPhone and Android devices began to absorb market share, developing for Palm OS became a real disaster.
Failure plants the seeds for future success
Although, from the failure of Confinity, came something unique and critical to the modern age. The force behind Confinity, Max Levchin, later went on to co-found PayPal with Elon Musk. He took that failure and used the valuable pieces of his creation to build something completely new; changing the way the world processes financial transactions online forever.
That one, simple feature in that failed software ecosystem later became the cornerstone of PayPal, a US$1.5-billion company after its acquisition by EBay. His initial failures led him on a path towards becoming part of the 0.0001%.
Failure forces us to improve and innovate
When things are going well, it is incredibly easy to become comfortable and slow down. Failure is nature’s way of kicking us in the butt and reminding us that if we are not moving forward, we are moving backward.
At the turn of the 21st century, Palm, Inc. held 85% of the mobile organizer market. In 2005, they did US$1.27-billion in sales! But, by 2010, the Smartphone developer was on its knees, eventually getting acquired by Hewlett-Packard for just US$5.70 per share.
The threat of failure is ready for anyone that falls prey to what Clayton Christensen calls “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. There’s never time to slow down and rest, as competitors are ready to copy your success and improve upon it.
Failure is simply an opportunity to achieve success
Do not let the fear of failure cripple you. Analysis paralysis is deadly. Instead, launch into every day with the knowledge that you will fail, and that is okay.Failure means that you succeeded in reaching your limits. Pushing against those limits forces you to grow and develop.
I am yet to meet a successful entrepreneur who has not failed at least 4-5 times on major projects. Every failure was a lesson that they took forward into their next pursuit. What will today’s failures teach you about tomorrow’s successes.