It was not Obama’s fault that you failed…

Nor was it Bush’s, or Clinton’s, or anybody else’s. If your business failed, it was YOUR fault. But don’t sulk about it — figure out what you did wrong, fix it, and try again!

This rant was precipitated by a recent comment on a business blog. The author whined that his new venture failed because Obama had “tinkered with the health care system.” What a crock — I just wanted to reach out and slap some sense into him.

Time to grow up or shut up!

Just for the record, it took me two times to get the consulting business right, and four times to get the training part of the business right. And there have still been the occasional rocky times since then.

In 1987, on the first day in full time business (the second time around) for my consulting business, the stock market crashed. Scared of failing again? Yes, but this time we succeeded, and we now joke, “The first day in business was the worst day in business.”

Failures are merely learning experiences. Sure, they may hurt at the time, but if we let them, they almost always teach us something. Furthermore, I don’t trust anyone who “never failed.”  Either they are lying, or they are very good at placing the blame on others. (Had a boss like that once… one reason I went out on my own.)

Here is a quick story that has served me well over the years. It was my first engineering sales job, and my new boss sent me to a multi-week sales training class. One evening at a break, I asked an older (wiser) and very experienced salesman how he handled the inevitable setbacks and failures.

  • He smiled, and said, “Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on.”  He went on, “If you never fail, you’ll never learn, and you’ll never make progress. By the way,” he added, “I’ve been at this for over twenty years, and I still fail to make the sale more often than not.” His advice alone was worth the price of the class.

So if you are serious about running your own show (consulting or otherwise), expect failures along the way. Try to manage the risk and minimize the damage, but know that you WILL have failures. And when you do, LEARN from them.

But don’t blame Obama, or anyone else! Finally, remember the immortal words of Harry Truman, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” And I’d like to add, “If you can’t stand the failures, don’t start a business…”

P.S. Off to DesignCon 2012 in Santa Clara to present “Consulting for Geeks”. Watch my blog for follow-on webinars on consulting.

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