‘The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing’ Henry Ford
I think Henry Ford puts it succinctly in that one sentence. Making mistakes is all about turning them into valuable lessons. Richard Branson famously entered the carbonated drinks market with the intention of beating Coca-Cola off the top spot in 1994. However, despite it tasting good, Virgin Cola didn’t have a strong enough unique identity to get noticed – lesson learned…
Mistakes are all part of the journey
One of the most important things for an entrepreneur is to not be afraid of making mistakes, and there are some fundamental tactics to employ to help you learn to love them instead of fearing them.
1. A safe space for learning
Mistakes will happen, whether it was your mistake, a supplier, staff member or customer, it is inevitable. The important thing is to recognise that fact and create a safe space where people can admit their mistakes and talk them through. A work environment that embraces the opportunity to learn is part of a healthy business culture. When the mistakes are hidden then the learn will come too late to save valuable profits lost.
Going back to Richard Branson, when his first business venture, Student Magazine wasn’t making money, he looked to other ways he could fund it. Virgin Records began as a mail order discount record business… Mistakes or failure are opportunities to look for flexibility, diversification and solutions. What else can you draw upon to resolve your challenges?
3. Let go of perfectionism
Some entrepreneurs I work with have grown from sole traders who were experts in every aspect of their business, into small businesses with staff that have taken over certain tasks. It can be difficult to let go and put faith in others to execute a task with the same level of perfection as you would do it. However, excellence is a far healthier goal to go after as you can always achieve excellence, whereas perfection rarely exists. Mistakes and failure will always occur when aiming for impossible standards.
4. Be prepared
Part of navigating obstacles in business is looking ahead at factors that have the potential to derail you. If you’re aware and prepared for the fact that you have a new staff member or are trying out a new piece of software for example, you will be more prepared to learn from the mistakes that are inevitable in those situations.
5. Analyse your mistakes after the solution
Take time for a retrospective analysis of what went wrong, what could have been the cause, what the solution and final outcome was and how it might be avoided in the future. Responding to staff members (and yourself), with an attitude of nurture and development, rather than punishment helps people to be unafraid and to be open to learning opportunities.
Shake it off
I hope that this article has been helpful and given you some confidence that mistakes needn’t mean a goal is unattainable. It’s often just part of the journey. If you’d like to talk through any issues that may have arisen as you read through these tips, I’d be happy to have that conversation.