Business development 23 September 2015

The six attributes of a business mistake

Appreciating what mistakes consist of in the first place can help you deal with them when they inevitably crop up again in the future
Appreciating what mistakes consist of in the first place can help you deal with them when they inevitably crop up again in the future

Matthew Turner interviewed 163 successful entrepreneurs for his book, and found that many consider mistakes valuable lessons. He identified the key attributes of a business mistake so you can see what often leads to errors in the first place.

You learned to walk and talk by making lots of mistakes. In fact, us humans are born to make them, but somewhere along the way they develop a rather bad reputation. When it comes to business, you relate mistakes to failure –therefore you avoid them at all costs, right?

Many do, and while I don’t encourage you to make them, after interviewing over a hundred entrepreneurs for my latest book, I appreciate mistakes not only happen, but the world’s most successful people consider them important lessons.

Overcoming mistakes and dealing with failure is something we must all learn, but it helps to appreciate what mistakes consist of in the first place. Once you know this, you can start thinking about how to transform your next faux pas into your best idea yet.

(1) Hiring people

Whether it’s your first or one-hundredth, the entire hiring process is thwart with danger. It isn’t about hiring the cheapest, or most expensive, or even the best qualified, rather finding the right person.

Each hire is different, but it’s always about hiring the right person to fit into your business. Like the founder of Fueled, Rameet Chawla, said to me, “Hire those you want, rather than those you need.” In other words, don’t panic or hire someone for the wrong reason. Make sure they’re the ideal person for you.

(2) Growth and expansion

You wish to grow your business and scale your idea because often that’s why entrepreneurs start a business in the first place.

But as Erin Blaskie said, “Grow with grace, not with pace.” It happens to be some of the best advice you’ll hear today, as it helps you keep your eyes on the all-important prize.

Although forever tempted, you should avoid growing too fast or for the wrong reasons. It isn’t about steady wins the race, rather working at a pace that suits your business model. Simply put, stay true to your path and don’t get distracted by how others are progressing. Growing and expanding is what it’s all about, but only if you can maintain and manage it.

(3) Passion and purpose

Dave Conrey said: “It can’t just be passion driven, it has to have purpose, too.”

If you build your business on passion, fantastic, but if it doesn’t fulfil a need then you face an uphill battle. Likewise, if you fulfil a need but don’t enjoy or love your work, you’ll only take it so far.

The balance between passion and purpose is an important one, and it’s a balance that’s unique to you. Focus on what you love by all means, but ensure it fulfils a genuine need within your audience. If it doesn’t, figure out a way to do so.

(4) Communication 

They say it’s good to talk, and in business it most certainly is. But remember, good communication involves talking and listening, and if you forget one, a mistake may await.

If all you do is talk, you’ll never hear what others have to say. Whereas if all you do is listen, can you ever truly articulate your vision?

It’s a fine balance, but as Brian Foley discovered whilst building BuddyTruk, an important one. “For the longest time, we blamed our vendors when things went wrong,” he said. “But it was our fault all along because we didn’t know what we wanted, and didn’t communicate our vision or plans with them.”

(5) Fear

The next time you meet a successful business owner, remember this important fact, they suffer through fear, too.

Every business owner does, no matter how confident, successful, or wealthy they may be. It’s part of the entrepreneurial journey you’re on, but fear shouldn’t stop you from achieving what you wish to achieve.

It isn’t about ridding yourself of fear, rather learning how to deal with it. Like Debbie Millman did, despite pushing her dream to one side for years, all because she feared she couldn’t do it.

“I decided it was prudent to choose self-efficiency over my dreams and ambitions, so I’d ensure security. This isn’t only tragic, but impossible. I figured, maybe if I wait until I’m more confident I’ll be able to chase my dreams. But if all you do is wait for this to happen, you may end up waiting forever.”

(6) Decision-making 

You live and die by the decisions you make, especially when you’re a business owner.

You also come across new opportunities each day, and it’s easy to say yes and imagine the glorious potential. The thing is, successful people say NO. They become so familiar with the word no, it’s their default answer.

As Michael O’Neal noted: “It’s not about saying yes to all your clients and work that comes your way, rather saying yes, and being open-minded, towards opportunity.”

If you say yes too often, you’re sure to burn out and become mediocre at everything you do. It isn’t about saying no to everything, rather being brave and saying no when it’s the smart thing to do.

Fundamentally, you should keep in mind that you will make mistakes as a business owner, but they don’t have to define you.

Chances are it will fit into one or more of the above categories, so when you make one, choose to own it and overcome it instead of fearing it and pretending it doesn’t exist. Those entrepreneurs who I spoke to appreciated this, and they continue to transform their mistakes into their best ideas yet.

Image: Shutterstock

Matthew Turner is a brand consultant and author of upcoming book The Successful Mistake.

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