To Be Successful, Your Small Business Must Fail

Like all small business owners, it probably took years of carefully doing the right things right to build up your business. And in the blink of an eye, COVID took it all away. What a curveball!

Clearly, we’re all going to have run our businesses differently if we’re going to survive the pandemic.

But there’s more: Apart from the very real economic implications of the pandemic for small business owners, there is the shame that comes with failure. And boy is our society is hung up on success!

From an early age, many of us are taught not to show weakness.  We have learned that failure is a cause for shame and fear.

But here’s the thing: there’s seldom any real success that comes without mishaps and failures along the way.

So, what can you do to turn the current situation to your favor?  If only there was a way to leverage the power of failure.

Change if you mean to survive

Management consultants say there is more to making it through these challenging times than concentrating on the health and safety of your employees, investing in technology and talent, and adapting your business model.

The heart of the matter is how your business works on the inside. In other words, your workplace culture.

Most small businesses demand a winning attitude with little tolerance for failure. However, when we create a culture where we punish failure, we risk creating a workplace where no one takes chances on anything new.

And right now, doing things differently is your number one priority if you’re going to get your small business through the pandemic. One way is to embrace failure.

What business owner isn’t scared to fail?

In the face of failure, you’d be crazy to encourage your employees to fail, right? Wrong. There is something good about failure if you make the effort to change your perspective.

Here’s a hint: making failure okay encourages a culture of innovation. In other words, your employees won’t be scared to find new solutions to new problems.

But this isn’t the full story. I bet you’re thinking it would be disastrous to freefall into failure. You’re right of course. A business has to prepare for failure: we’ll show you how.

In fact, this is exactly where we’ll start.

Prepare to fail

For sure, you want to encourage employees to experiment. However, there are safety nets that you, as the business owner, must put in place.

Obviously, health and safety standards are non-negotiable. But, what about insurance? This is something that often gets forgotten. Worse still is a business owner who decides that insurance is too expensive right now.

But now, Small Business Insurance is more important than ever. If you’re going to be doing new things in new ways, you need to be protected if things don’t go according to plan.

Will your business’s existing insurance coverage extend to your new and innovative activities?

Now is the time to review all your insurance policies. Are your commercial property and business vehicle policies in order? Are there COVID-related risks that require additional insurance?

Small Business Liability Insurance is the kind of coverage you should consider. It includes liability insurance. So, if you are sued for damages resulting from your business operations, it will payout.

Pro tip: Educate your team supervisors on what’s required of them to act within the business’s coverage parameters.

Once you have these safety measures in place, it is time to shake everything up … and head for success.

2 Ways to win at business by celebrating failure

1. Talk about failure!

The first step is to acknowledge any failures. If the team hides or ignores failures, then it is difficult to know what isn’t working in the business. And, if you don’t know what’s broken, it can’t be fixed.

This is the time when you have to know: there is enough chaos in the business world.

Introduce project feedback sessions where your teams can share their learnings. Sounds straightforward, right?

However, for this to have any chance of working, management has to lead by example. Speak about your own learnings and mistakes, and how did you end up successfully protecting the business.  Why? Because this builds the trust that is needed if you want honest feedback.

More importantly: don’t play the blame game. If you start pointing fingers, nobody will speak up. Ever.

Structure your Zoom sessions around these 3 simple questions:

  • What would we do again?
  • What would we avoid doing again?
  • What would we do differently?

Another tip: don’t tie up hours of billable time. The sessions should be short and to the point.

2. Make space for failure

To succeed during a pandemic demands out of the box thinking. Get your people to understand that the success of the company (more specifically, the security of having employment now and in the future) is linked to “doing things differently.”

Innovation could be trying a new product, changing the way a team works, or new ways of engaging with clients.

Make innovation a key performance indicator – even if it fails. However, while the changes don’t need to be earth-shattering, they must be deliberate and there must be a way of measuring the outcome.

Set up ways to reward ideas. It doesn’t have to be money. Remember, when we are recognized for our efforts, most of us are naturally encouraged to continue. The point is to remove the fear of failure.

Failing takes courage

Change is always challenging. For a small business it can be devastating. But, COVID-19 has given us little choice.  Business survival depends on it. One of the most underutilized tools to manage change is Failure and how you leverage its effects.

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