Business Owners! 9 Key Ways Not To Fail

by Peter Williamson | Aug 30, 2012

Ask most people if failure is a positive or negative thing, and they will likely lean toward negative. In his book, Why People Fail, author Siimon Reynolds states, "Looking back on any failure, you can almost always work out different things you could have done to avoid it or at least to reduce the severity of its impact". Still, while failing at something can feel like the end of the world, taking a different perspective on the topic can turn an initially negative experience into a positive, even productive one.

While many companies subscribe to the theory, "Failure is not an option," not all experts share the same view. In an article, "How Failure Breeds Success," failure is seen in a new, almost optimistic light. Coke's "New Coke" failure could have brought the company to its knees, but addressing the problem outright changed all that, lending credibility to the company and the product.

Entrepreneurs know that taking risks is a key part of succeeding in business. Still, there are 16 snags, according to Reynolds, that can cause a person to fail. Some of them include:

  • Not Being unclear about one's purpose in life and in business
  • Avoiding negative language
  • Avoiding inactivity
  • Not Being too hard-headed and one-sided about things
  • Not asking the right questions
  • Acting without thinking first
  • Not having daily rituals
  • Being stressed
  • Not cultivating both personal and business relationships
  • Not being persistent
  • Being overly obsessed with money and material gains

Wow! There are a lot of knots in those "nots", are there not? Let's look more closely at 9 ways to reduce one's likelihood of failing.

REDUCE NEGATIVE SELF-TALK: There's a killer in your head. It's called destructive thinking and destructive thinking has a way of producing damaging negative self-talk. Studies show the negative impact on one's health generated by destructive thinking and negative self-talk, yet even knowing this, many of us will continue to beat ourselves mentally, using our innards as an emotional punching bag. It is actually habit forming! Seriously! One can slip into the habit of being negative and down she goes. Reynolds talks of one man breaking the habit by watching hours of comedy. Whatever your approach, it's important to break the habit of destructive thinking and negative self-talk.

REDUCE INACTIVITY: I know a lot of people who do a lot of nothing and then wonder why they get nothing done. One of the keys to getting things done is making lists, prioritizing the things on those lists and then practice the 80/20 rule. Turns out we waste about 80% of our time and are productive 20% of the time, so why not let the 20% be things worth putting effort and time into? Another key things to do is to delegate! Why are you doing what you can pay someone else a lot less than your time is worth to do? And why are you not getting help for you? No rule says you have to do it alone.

REDUCE HARDHEADEDNESS: What's the expression - My way or the highway? People with fixed mindsets don't grow and you and your business are like a tree - you either grow or die, right? People with growth mindsets accept that talent can be learned and obtained, and optimism fuels growth. Growth mind sets believe in letting themselves and others learn from mistakes. They are more open to accepting change when change is necessary, and they believe that if at first you don't succeed, nothing should stop you from trying again.


1. What do I value?

2. If failure wasn't an option, what would I choose to do?

3. What's the worst that could happen?

4. How can I increase my profits ten-fold?

5. What would (someone you admire) do?

6. If I started over, what would I do differently?

7. What's up with my competition?

8. How can I best use my time right now?

9. What will my epitaph say?

10. What can I do to improve performance?

REDUCE OVERDOING: Are you a doer or a thinker? Many business owners find themselves "doing" with little time to actually think about what they are doing. But building on a team and encouraging brainstorming can break through that "do" and get everyone, not just you, thinking again. Don't get me wrong. There are those who think, think, think and can't quite get to the "doing" part. And that's a whole different ballgame. If you fit in that category, just making the decision will be the hard part. After that, things should go pretty well. In a rut? There are ways to dig oneself out. Say you have a big project looming and you want to create some buzz to go with it, but you're unsure what to do. Invite an expert you greatly admire into your thoughts. Now that you've got them in your thoughts, picture coming up together with an idea for your campaign and you might be surprised at how well this works.

CREATE RITUALS: A colleague of mine didn't used to have rituals. She said her mother-in-law came to visit one time and asked, "What's your morning routine." She said, "I don't have one," to which the mother-in-law replied, "Everyone has a routine. Just tell me what yours is so that I don't interfere."

What's your routine? Rituals work for a reason. A ritual is, after all, a "system" and systems in business are exactly what you need to keep the business growing.

DE-STRESS: Easier said than done, right? But stress kills. It kills dreams, goals, hopes; it kills inspiration, positive energy, happiness; it can kill you. Literally. Most business owners don't need to take a "Stress Indicator Quiz" to see if they're stressed. They know. And the answer is a resounding yes! To relieve stress:

a. Breathe deeper

b. Release more. Yeah - let stuff go.

c. Make lists for all the "to dos" in life, including work, personal, finance, calls, and follow- ups.

d. Define your circles of influence: In one circle write, "Things I can control". In the other write, "Things I can't control"

Which are you going to focus on?

BUILD A CIRCLE OF RELATIONSHIPS: Now draw some more circles with room to write in. Suggested "circles" include:

Circle one: Friends

Circle two: Colleagues or people you trust that you work with or who work in similar fields.

Circle three: Business people you most admire.

Put up to ten people in each. These are your core connections, outside of family, of course. Practice kind gestures and the art of staying in touch, even if it's to send a "Let's get together" email or a "Just checking in" card. Smile at people you pass. Small gestures, in other words, can have a big impact.

PRACTICE PERSISTENCE: If you fall down, get back up. If you fall again, get back up again. But learn from your falls. Determination is a good thing if you don't continuously do the same thing that's failing you and expecting different results. The key is to focus on what really matters. Revisit that prioritized "To Do" list. What's your focus going to be on? It's easy to get pulled into too many directions, but if you practice the tips shared in this article, that won't happen.

DISCOVER THE TRUE VALUE OF WEALTH: Lastly, develop a healthy relationship with money. Nothing is wrong with wanting it or even making scores of it, but if you determine "wealth" purely by how much money you make or have, you may be missing out on something vastly more important: happiness. Reynolds points out that materialism has been shown to create more stress, anxiety, depression - even anger. So, think long and hard about what wealth means to you. Focus your thoughts on your strengths, what you want to accomplish, and who you can help as a result.

I won't lie. It can be lonely at the top. But those successful business owners who have made money work for them, helping them achieve great things, and who have time to spend with family and friends are the ones who've discovered the true value of wealth.

You're at the right time at the right place to get the help you need to discover a wealth of opportunity for you and your business.

About Peter Williamson

For advice and proven systems to advance your business, visit ActionCOACH Cal Team at Peter Williamson, Master Licensee of ActionCOACH overseas the California Coaches and helps business owners like you find instant and lasting solutions to increase your profits by 61% or more - guaranteed.


About Chia-Li Chien

Chia-Li Chien

Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; Chia-Li “like JOLLY!” Succession Strategies for Women Entrepreneurs. She is Chief Strategist of Value Growth Institute dedicated to helping private business owners increase the value of their firms. She is the award-winning author of Show Me The Money and faculty member of American Management Association. Her blog and newsletter was named a top small business resource by the New York Times “You’re the Boss” blog.


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