Business failure can be good and nothing to be ashamed of: How to start again if starting-up doesn’t go to plan

Some of the world’s most famous and most successful entrepreneurs are also people who have failed, succeeded, failed again and built everything back up.

Indeed, Virgin boss Richard Branson recently wrote on his blog: ‘Making mistakes and experiencing setbacks is part of the DNA of every successful entrepreneur, and I am no exception.’

He goes on to cite Virgin’s failed escapades into weddings and cola that sit alongside the group’s enormously successful airline, bank and media group.

Branson recently wrote on his blog: ‘Making mistakes and experiencing setbacks is part of the DNA of every successful entrepreneur, and I am no exception.’

Yet, in Britain perhaps particularly, failure is often still regarded as something to be ashamed of.

If you’re self-employed, a business owner or a would-be entrepreneur, understanding that failure is part of success is not only important, it’s also helpful.

And from a practical point of view, there are plenty of ways to pick yourself up and dust yourself off before you start all over again.

Here to share his firm’s experiences of some business owners who have suffered setbacks, is Tim Sawyer, chief executive of the Start Up Loans Company, who has pulled together his top tips for a starting a business when times are tough.

Top tips when starting again

Tim Sawyer is chief executive of the Start Up Loans Company

Starting your own business isn’t always a smooth ride, and for some, the first attempt doesn’t always go to plan.

Many business owners also have to overcome significant challenges in their journey to start a business.

Whether it be personal setbacks, a change in circumstances or finance issues, there are many reasons as to why a business might not succeed.

But failures don’t need to be the end of the journey – many successful business owners take the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, dust themselves off and try again.

1. Be tenacious and persevere – no matter what

Most start-up business owners don’t come from a background you’d expect. They are invariably run by the people who are brave enough and resilient enough to pursue their dreams and take the plunge, and not necessarily confined to those who have an MBA from a top business school. Many of our loan recipients come from challenging backgrounds, but have used their experiences to drive them forward to success.

Valencia Simpson owns The Kupcake Kitchen which launched in May 2016

Valencia’s story is extraordinary. It shows that no matter what your background is, being determined and striving for success can lead to achieving great things. It also shows what having an end goal in mind can do.

For anyone looking to start a business, write out your goals for the 12 months. Bullet point exactly how you’re going to achieve this, and constantly review it. Keeping it saved on your phone or written on your fridge will help, for example.

And constantly remind yourself why you started this journey. If you’ve been inspired by another business owner, keep them at the forefront of your mind too.

Not only will it help give you direction, but when times are tough it will act as a reminder of what you started out to achieve.

Share your goals openly with your loved ones too, they will be some of your best business advisers when you’re at your lowest point. They can help remind you of what you set out to achieve.

2. When one door closes, another one opens

It’s important to remember that a setback in your career doesn’t have to signal an ending. It can give you the opportunity to change direction and try your hand at something you’ve always wanted to pursue.

Chis Evans launched Waterfall Ways, an events and catering company based in South Wales

It’s common for people who take redundancy to look for another job in a similar field, but we would encourage anyone in this position to use it as an opportunity for a ‘career 180’.

Think back to when you were at school and imagined a ‘dream job’. Would it be viable to give it a go now? Our main piece of advice is: when your career doesn’t go as planned, take it as an opportunity to make a change for the better.

Take some time to challenge yourself in to writing a brief business plan over a weekend.

If you find yourself excited and inspired afterwards, then rather than dusting off your old CV and applying for similar roles, devote yourself to building a solid business plan.

There are loads of free tools available online to help do this, like the British Business Bank’s Business Finance Guide.

3. If things aren’t working, rethink your strategy but don’t give up

Many start-ups think that from the outset their business will take an upward trajectory. Unfortunately, it’s not always plain-sailing, and for many, rethinking your initial strategy is the only option to keep your business alive.

Often, start-ups think that they must follow their original business plan word-for-word. But this can lead to failure as they are far too static in their approach.

We’d encourage people looking to start their own business to write a detailed business plan, but to revisit and evolve it constantly as the business grows.

You can’t predict exactly how your business will expand, or what might happen during your journey, so be prepared to rethink your original plan.

This is why it’s useful to have a mentor on hand to help you make vital decisions like this.

They will have had first-hand experience of decisions like this during their career, and having somebody else to learn from can be invaluable, which is why we pair our loan recipients with a dedicated mentor from the outset.

We’d advise you to meet them regularly, speak to them over the phone, or email them to seek their advice. Explore which funding and mentoring provider is right for you by searching online, asking friends or family for business contacts, or by attending networking events.

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