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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 18 August 2018

Five lessons to be learned from business failure

Lessons from mistakes along the way are crucial to achieving business success

Frustrated Caucasian businesswoman using computer
Frustrated Caucasian businesswoman using computer

If you are like me and have done many different jobs and started many businesses along the way, it’s always nice to take a little time to reflect back upon your journey. A week ago, I had a bit of time on my hands, and I looked back at my career as an entrepreneur and a businesswoman, starting from the small businesses I ran as a teenager on the side, to the companies I managed full-time when I graduated from university.

As you can imagine, a lot of my “business attempts” failed along the way. You may initially think that you want to build something specific, but then two months down the line you realise that it’s not really your thing. Alternatively, it could be a case of offering the right product in the wrong town, or the wrong product at the right time.

The point is, the most important business lessons are learnt the hard way, often through ­trial and error, and, most importantly, through failure. I never regret going through each and every negative experience, no matter how painful it was, because it equipped me with the knowledge and experience that I have today.

So what can we learn from business failure? Plenty. Here are a few lessons I’ve learnt which have been useful both in my business and personal life.

You wouldn’t know your full potential until you’re pushed out of your comfort zone

Don’t expect to get it right the first time. I’ve learnt that I perform best, realise my full pot­ential and really discover what my creative brain can achieve when I am under pressure. Your comfort zone is known as such for a reason; it’s because you settle into a certain way of doing things, making you less likely to think of alternative solutions or ways of doing things.

But it is through discomfort and pressure that you really acti­vate your mind to look for other solutions and ways to make things work out. Next time you feel that you’re under pressure, take a breath and realise that it’s an opportunity to be introduced to a potential you didn’t necessarily know you have.

You can’t improve your business, until you personally engage with it

This is why customer service is key. How will you know how your products need to be improved, or what you can do to provide a better service, if you don’t put yourself in your customers’ shoes? If you are manufacturing a product or offering a service, then you need to continuously test it out. Be a mystery shopper, or call in your hotline and see how your staff are performing. Try shopping online on your own website. Be there with the packaging team and see how they wrap and package your products. Test out your products at home, or at work. Be your own business ambassador.

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Not every idea is worth pursuing

This truth wasn’t only difficult for me to accept, but it’s also been difficult to communicate this to my team members. If I’ve learnt anything, it would be that you will be exposed to so many ideas along the way, but not every idea will work for you, no matter how great it may sound to start with. You need to find an idea that aligns with your goals and business purpose, one that you will realistically be able to work and deliver on for some time to come.

If you want it to grow, give it your full attention

You can’t give 20 per cent and expect 100 per cent in return. Growing a business requires your full attention and dedication. What you put into it you will reap in return. This is why many of my colleagues who have side businesses, while they focus on something else like a day job, don’t see their businesses grow with the pace they have in mind for it.

Last but not least, don’t lose your drive

Always have that strong belief in mind, that failure will ultimately lead you to success, especially if you chose to look at it as a valuable learning opportunity. You may lose it all, but that doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t get to where you want to be in the fullness of time.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi

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