When I look back at my experience as an entrepreneur I tend to dwell on the mistakes more than on the accomplishments.
Yes, I can remember the moment when I learned we closed a particularly large account and felt elated, content and maybe even a tad bit optimistic about the future.
But the moments I remember most are the big fails, the times I dropped the ball or just did a terrible job servicing a customer’s needs. Those moments play out in my mind in slow-motion forcing me to relive the experience over and over like some train wreck on the big-screen.
I’ve come to believe that dwelling on failure is a particularly human quality. Feeling the pangs of defeat more acutely than our victories has always been integral to our survival. Back when we ran screaming from saber-toothed tigers or stalked wooly mammoths across glaciers, failure was what helped us learn to improve our hunting prowess and bring fresh food back to the clan rather than becoming some predator’s midmorning snack.
In entrepreneurial terms, defeat and failure hones our business skills and sharpens our instincts. It gives us more weapons to use for the next big opportunity. What we take away from an angry customer helps us anticipate how to better serve future customers.
We learn how to align our sales pitch to our operational strengths. We figure out how to communicate with customers and set up feedback loops. We set the proper expectations and make sure to deliver on promised results. We gain a sixth sense about which customers to take on, which to pass up.
The bottom-line is that behind every successful business is a hot mess of mistakes, mishaps and miscalculations. The key is to embrace failure, learn from it, implement improvements, and then repeat the cycle over and over. It never ends.
Successful entrepreneurs are not defeated by their screw-ups, they listen to their angry customers and analyze the moment when the crap hit the fan. They may lose face and have to show up hat-in-hand to make an apology; they also lose the occasional customer, perhaps even deservedly so.
But they won’t make the same mistake twice, at least not very often. Their survival depends upon it. Our ancestors made sure of that by embracing failure to eventually dominate their environment.
About the author: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.