Teaching entrepreneurship at UNCC has given me a unique view of success and failure. Years ago, a mentor told me that you learn more from failure than you do from success. I really didn’t know what he was talking about at the time, but I do now.
For some reason (probably the pain), failure tends to stick with me more. In the pursuit of better teaching, I have added a module to my class on why entrepreneurs fail. I don’t really like to teach on it, but the students seem to take to the information, and I have found two things that seem to be consistent in a lack of business startup success.
Entrepreneurs are a very funny breed. You need to have a strong stomach, thick skin and a laser focus. All of this equals what the rest of the world calls stubbornness. When we first started AvidXchange in 2000, it was five head strong – I do it my way – men. You can imagine the arguments we had. It’s difficult to change an entrepreneur’s mind when they get stuck on some idea and they are convinced that their idea is going to be the next big thing. (However) That is the first failure, the inability to change. When an entrepreneur is so wedded to an idea, refusing to change it, or not creative enough to, it’s only a matter of time before the business begins to suffer. I am sure there are exceptions to this, but in the innovative tech world (that I live in) change is key to success. It is, however, possible that you can change too much. There has to be some balancing act between changing and staying focused. It is important to mention that cycles have a tendency to operate in 18 month time periods. I do not remember where I heard this, but it’s been years since I was first introduced to this idea and I have used it successfully to maintain balance between change and too much change.
The next thing that will inhibit the entrepreneur is selling. All successful entrepreneurs are great salespeople. The problem is that so many people have such a negative view of selling that they either won’t give it a chance (because it’s a learned skill), or are unable to recognize good selling. When selling is done by a pro, the person being sold to will have no idea they are being sold to. They will believe the salesperson is being honest, and displaying a lot of integrity. This failure is the obvious… if the entrepreneur can’t, or (this is what happens most of the time) won’t sell, then the company will not make any money – a quick road to failure. Consider too, as an entrepreneur, selling to customers is important but selling to advisors, bankers, investors, board members, employees and family (especially family) is just as important.
Think of This
Not being able or willing to sell, and unwillingness to change put a person in the position of having all their eggs on the sides of the road (not even in a basket). Both selling and being able to evaluate opportunities are skills that can be learned, taught and improved.
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About The Author:
Christopher Elmore has written 8 books, countless articles, lectures at UNC – Charlotte and travels around the country speaking on the topics of startup success, sales, presentation skills, change, entrepreneurship, accounts payable and payment automation. Having deep startup and entrepreneurial experience, Christopher was one of the six people who started AvidXchange in 2000 and continues to work in the business today. If you hire Christopher to speak or teach at your company or event… you won’t be sorry! Request a media kit or contact us for more information