Would you be able to succeed as an entrepreneur after experiencing massive failure?
Imagine this: the product launch you’ve been working on for 3 years was a major flop. This causes your investors to pull out so now you can’t pay any of your bills. Then your most valuable employee quits to start a competing company taking half your company with him. And to make matters worse, you get hit with a massive lawsuit and your reputation is tarnished.
Sounds traumatic? The above is just a fraction of the setbacks I’ve experienced on my journey to succeed as an entrepreneur. But I didn’t let any of that stop me from creating the $20M a year beauty subscription business I run today.
Here are the 5 most important things I’ve learned from failing my way to success.
Don’t Put a Timeline on Success
Like many others, my whole life I’ve been in a rush to succeed. After all, Justin Bieber reached worldwide stardom at 15. Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook at 19 years old. And Kylie Jenner just became the world’s youngest-ever self-made billionaire at 21.
I would compare my life to all these success stories and place immense pressure on myself to succeed quickly. If something wasn’t working out right away, I’d give up on it and move on to the next thing.
I found myself starting over again and again – chasing one opportunity after the next. Ironically, although I was trying to move fast, I ended up succeeding much slower than if I had just taken my time in the first place.
The lesson: Success takes time. It’s okay to put pressure on yourself, but that can lead to short-sighted decision making and a lot of bouncing around. Don’t try to build something fast – build it to last. If you take your time, you’ll win in the long-run.
After I graduated from college, I helped my boss submit a business proposal to land a very lucrative contract with a big new client. The contract required us to add a lot of new services that would considerably drive up our operating costs but would help us to create a better product.
When news broke that we won the contract I remember feeling so excited. I started working on the new services we promised right away. That is, until my boss stopped me and told me the promises we made were just to help win the contract- we weren’t actually going to do any of them.
I was so confused. Is that how business functioned? Since it was my first job, and I looked up to my boss, I just assumed that’s how business worked. From that point I started saying and doing whatever I could to make a buck
That strategy didn’t work out very well. Before long I had established a reputation for myself as being a fraud. The damage from my bad reputation ended up costing me a lot more than whatever short-term material gain came from it. And it many took years to reverse it.
The lesson: Money doesn’t always last, but your reputation does. A good reputation takes a long time to build. Its foundation is laid by consistent performance, not promises. If built correctly, your reputation will be the best investment you can make.
Relationships Take Time
When I first got into the cosmetics industry, I started off by creating an Online Makeup school. I was partnering with different beauty influencers to teach live online makeup classes.
I worked really hard on a deal to partner with one of the biggest makeup artists in the world. It took over a year for me to get her on board after back and forth negotiations. By the she was ready to sign, my makeup school was experiencing a lot of problems and on the verge of failing.
The makeup artist and her team didn’t know about the problems. I knew I could move forward with that deal and make a lot of money in the short-term, but it wouldn’t last long. And if she found out I purposely hid important information from her it would really damage our relationship and trust that I worked so hard to build.
As difficult as it was, I ultimately decided to come clean and tell her that it wasn’t in her best interest to move forward with the agreement. After explaining why, she had a tremendous amount of respect for me, and about two years later we ended up partnering on a bigger deal that was 10x more successful than the school could’ve ever been.
The lesson: Relationships are long-term investments. Don’t worry about what you can get out of them today. Focus on providing value, being honest and transparent. Everything else will fall into place.
You Never Know What’s Good or Bad
After going through a number of business failures, I entered my 30’s completely broke with less than $1,000 to my name. Around that time, I had a few friends from college reach out to me that were interested in partnering with me on a new business idea. These friends were extremely successful and had built and sold many multi-million-dollar companies in the past.
I thought I finally caught my lucky break. I was so excited to partner with them and fantasized about making it big. Those dreams quickly vanished when my friends decided to pull out of our agreement last minute.
I was devastated. I was counting on that deal to go through and had no other backup plan. I used the last $600 in my bank account to start a cosmetics business in my studio apartment in an attempt just to keep a roof over my head.
Fast forward to today, 3 years later, and my small $600 investment has turned into a $20M a year business. Oh, and I just recently read a news article on the company my friends started. It went bankrupt and they shut down. Had I partnered with them I never would have founded the company I run today and would’ve once again been starting all over.
The lesson: What may seem like a curse today may turn out to be a blessing tomorrow. You never really know what’s good or bad so don’t get too down on yourself when things don’t seem to be working out. Everything happens for a reason. The most important part is to not get discouraged and to keep going.
Practice radical transparency
I grew up in a conservative Indian household where there wasn’t always a lot of open communication. The lack of communication often created division, and it was uncomfortable telling my family what I was really thinking or what was happening in my life. What I didn’t realize was that I was letting those same patterns of closed communication from childhood spill over into my businesses.
I learned this when I decided to do an anonymous company poll to get a pulse on how my team was feeling. A few people responded saying they felt there was a general mistrust within the team and that they felt in the dark as to what was happening around them. Those sentiments echoed exactly how I felt growing up. I was guilty of building a company culture that stemmed from my family culture without even knowing it.
Today, I communicate openly about our finances, failures, short-term goals, long-term plans and much more. Almost nothing is considered sacred. Since adopting this policy of radical transparency, the entire team feels so much more comfortable discussing issues openly and working together as a team.
The lesson: If you’re not transparent with your team about everything, it will create mistrust and eventually lead to division. The best leaders are radically transparent with their team members. They inspire employee loyalty and honesty by being an example of those qualities.