Now that I have experience and teaching entrepreneurship at UNCC has given me a unique view of success and failure. I had a mentor tell me years ago that you can learn more from failure than you can from success. I really didn’t know what he was talking about at the time but I sure do now.
For some reason (probably the pain) failure tends to stick with me more. I don’t like thinking about my failures but as I fail and succeed the more negative is a better teacher. 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 really take to the information, and I have found two things that seem to be consistent to lack of business startup success.
Entrepreneurs are a very funny breed. You need to have a strong stomach, thick skin and a lazer focus. All of that equates to what the rest of the world calls stubbornness. If you are an entrepreneur or you know one you know that you can barely talk them out of anything. When we first started AvidXchange in 2000 it was five heard strong – wanting to 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, which is the inability to change. When an entrepreneur is so wedded to their idea that they won’t change or aren’t creative enough to change 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, interesting that you can change too much, so there has to be a balancing act between changing and staying focused. It is important to mention that cycles have a tendency to operate in 18 month groups. I can’t remember where I got this from, but it’s been years since I was introduced to this idea and I have used it successfully to keep the balance between change and changing too much.
The next thing that will kill entrepreneurs 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 good selling in done well by a pro the person being sold to will have no idea and they will think the person is being honest or displaying a lot of integrity. With this failure there is the obvious… if the entrepreneur can’t or (this is what happens most of the time) won’t sell then the company won’t make any money which is a quick road to failure. Consider this too, that 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 unwilling to sell and not changing put a person in a position to where all of their eggs are on the sides of the road (not even in a basket) and both selling and being able to evaluate opportunity are skills that can learned and taught and improved.
About The Author:
Christopher Elmore has written 8 books, countless articles, lectures at UNC – Charlotte and Queen’s University as well as 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