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Why entrepreneurs don't talk about failure

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by Not4Resale, Jul 9, 2014.

  1. Recently, I came across an article about an acquaintance who gained some public prominence over the years that she developed herself in the startup sphere.

    Evidently, her business eventually had to wrap up operations. Nikki Durkin goes into painful detail to retell the ordeal here:


    Although I have always been subject to the laws of cash-flow and vigorously avoided pitching for funding out of the fear that we would fall into the "runway" trap where the business rapidly runs out of capital without the revenue to support growth, the emotional journey deeply mirrored my own one.

    When I had to work 3 different jobs at various bars to pay the bills and drove myself into the ground with 60-80 hour work weeks with no pay, I have to admit things looked pretty dismal. In spite of this, each time I was asked about how things were going I felt compelled to answer with something along the lines of "things are going great!" And I would rattle off a few superfluous reasons as to why.

    Nikki highlights a very big gap in the entrepreneurial literature. Most businesses that are started fail. They fcuk up, they die. We celebrate failure as a cultural value and grit as a virtue of the entrepreneur but it is all smoke and mirrors when it comes to hearing about how things are actually going.

    I can only offer my own justifications and understanding from my experiences:

    No one gives a shit.

    Harsh, yes. But really, other than your friends and family people aren't worried about your welfare. Your decisions represent the deepest, darkest fears of human inadequacy. I'm sure hearing about someone who went out to "build their dreams" and failed gives you a big fat sigh of relief as you collect your weekly pay check.

    "See, it is risky, I was smart, I stayed put - I'm safe." You will hear yourself muttering.

    Most of our communications are projections of our own fears and anxieties, for entrepreneurs to tell people that business is a challenge won't get the response that the embattled, lonely business owner is hoping for. Whenever I have been down and out, and confided in my closest friends I would get support but never understanding.

    Failure is embarrassing, we shy away from it. Let's not sugar coat it, failure sucks. To compound this, people love to be right and the vast majority of the population will never attempt to create something valuable that stands to shift the world in a meaningful way.

    When you embark on your mission, you make a covenant with yourself, victory or defeat, this is your war to fight and there aren't many allies who will understand why you do what you do.

    If you lose - There will be no parades or victory parties, just you lying in a pool of crushed emotional fodder... And who the hell wants to tell anyone about that?

    • Agree Agree x 1
  2. Yes and if you have an occasional win you're a capitalist swine living off the sweat of your downtrodden employees.:D
  3. a lot of "entrepreneurial ideas" are kind of crap from a business perspective.. but no-one wants to admit that.
    instead they talk about "learning experiences" and "character building" etc etc...

    but it's still cool to call yourself an Entrepreneur, even if you are a shit business person :D
  4. I work for myself.
    I am not rich.
    But it beats the cr*p out of working for the man.
  5. Its not that I don't give a shit its more a case of why should I give a shit.

    Don't get me wrong, good on you for having a shot but outside of your own family and friends who do you expect to give a stuff one way or the other.

    The only other concerned parties would be your bankers and potentials clients.

    I like my job & im happy working for someone & I have never looked at my weekly pay check and thought yeh another one of those pesky start-ups can kiss my arse, and just like those knobs in the shopping centres trying to sign me up for three years of giving to save a whale/child/family somewhere far away I have enough to worry about with my own family and friends to give a stuff about someone elses welfare. Here or abroad.

    You either work for yourself or for someone else as long as your working and are happy why should I care.

    *Edit flame suit on :-O
    • Like Like x 1
  6. I'm 3rd generation in our family business and sometimes it seems more like a crazy roller coaster ride from the valleys of "oh hell no :(" to the peak of "YES! Fixed that!" and rinse and repeat.

    It's certainly not the life style for people who can't handle stress...
  7. Nothing wrong with any of that….
  8. This is true but you also get girls like Nikki who have all the qualities of a successful entrepreneur, slog their guts out and still fall flat on their face. The frustrating part being, for a successful economy we need more people like this. Investment in new business ventures is directly correlated with GDP growth. Raising a family and buying a house negatively impact growth due to the constraints these factors put on weekly household disposable income.

    A fair point and an accurate reflection of the human psyche.
  9. agree, but I think a business failure comes down to failure to anticipate something.. sometimes unavoidable, but often not.

    some people just go "stuff it, there's a lot of risk and it'll probably go belly up, but there's a slim chance it might work"
    good to have people like that... except if they are just burning cash and effort and could have used their skills for something more useful.. weighed up the risks a little better.. mitigated those risks better?

    but you never know what will take off next :) that's the fun I suppose..
  10. Yes, but in practice, sometimes you can make a whole lot of right decisions and be ill fated with some bad luck. I met a woman who went into business, her and her business partner put their heart and soul into getting everything set up. Then a few weeks after launch her business partner gets diagnosed with Leukaemia.

    Sure, they both could have taken out Key man insurance to protect themselves but with an operation so complex, there is bound to be something that pops up that you couldn't have expected.

    There are definitely people in the start up sphere who have some shitty ideas and fall in love more with the romantic notion of being an "entrepreneur" than actually doing something useful. It is these egotistical bobble heads that create this silly culture of "it's cool to fail" and give a skewed perspective to new business people who want to build something meaningful.

    It's funny, I didn't realise how little money motivated me until I found out just how hard I was willing to work for none of it.

    (Btw - apologies if my prattling is a bit excessive. I was touched my Nikki's story and it has sparked some self reflection which I enjoy sharing).
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Reminds me of this quote:
    "Every successful person has had failures, but repeated failure is not a guarantee of eventual success" ...
    • Like Like x 1
  12. The article seems to be mixing two concepts. Starting a small business is not necessarily Entrepreneurial. Starting a coffee shop or a mechanics workshop is just deciding to be a small business owner, rather than working for someone else.

    To be Entrepreneurial you need to have a unique idea. You also have to have good business instinct and process. The type of people that have unique ideas are rarely good at the latter. If they truly had a good understanding of what was involved in their undertaking, they wouldn't have set out in the first place. Some do have both skillsets. Some learn and some are lucky enough to acquire the right partner.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  13. Homer Simpson said it best: "If something seems too hard, then it probably is. The lesson here is...never try."
    • Funny Funny x 1
  14. Yes and no, you can have a traditional business model and still add in something unique to grow the business exponentially.


    "At the end of the day I sell ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches just like every other sandwich bar in the country. We don’t have a unique product, what we do have is a consistent product and brand so customers trust us, know what to expect, love our stores and service." - Katherine Sampson

    I don't think you have to be particularly unique or special in your thinking to be classified as an Entrepreneur, you just have to introduce something a bit different to the industry that you are competing in.

    From a self-reflective perspective, it is merely a matter of semantics as you may have a huge vision but have not yet (or unsuccessfully) implemented it. Does this make only the people who succeed in turning their vision into a reality an entrepreneur and the ones who get stuck in the everyday monotony of survival business owners?
  15. +1 I save my sympathy for creditors of these "entrepreneurs" who are trying to run traditional small businesses and are made to struggle by having to eventually accept cents in the dollar.
    Not always the case, but often failed "entrepreneurs" don't give a shit about them; too busy feeling sorry for themselves.
    Observations based on personal experience - end of rant.
  16. "At the end of the day I sell ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches......."

    The key to her success is simply really ...................... she hasn't strayed far from the kitchen

  17. Yes, one thing I've noticed about Entrepreneurial types is they are comfortable going broke.

    Once they do it, they just start again under their wife's name, then their sisters, etc.

    For me, the idea of putting half my house on the line, for a start-up business venture, just tightens my sphincter too much.
  18. And some end up with an Edison or Jobs.
  19. Most of Edison's success came down to the fact he was a prick that screwed everyone over. Justly, he was eventually screwed over by his own board and died a sad man.

    Jobs spent 20 years getting it wrong before he got it right, which demonstrates my point.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. His talent, though, was finding people with skillz (such as Steve Wozniak) and using them, while selling (literally and in the sense of marketing) whatever they produce and seizing the spotlight. He was also quite happy to screw people (such as Steve Wozniak) over if it suited him.

    In short, he had "psychopath" written all over him :p.