Failure is good and necessary... a personal insight.
When I was invited to contribute to the topic of entrepreneurship, I found myself thinking about the many times I had initiated a new business: how many times I had succeeded and how many times I had failed.
I will not go into the details, but in 22 years, I founded seven companies (three in the communication field, two in consulting, one in fashion, and one in education); four of them closed (two went bankrupt and the other two lost relevance and were closed), one is inactive, and the final two are considered to be successful initiatives (not by me: by clients, partners, journalists, etc.).
I would say that my failure rate is high, wouldn’t you agree? Out of seven projects, four were closed, one is dormant, and two worked out... a low success rate. I would even say that I am incompetent, because I failed so many times...
Now, let me tell you something. Do you know why two of these enterprises have succeeded and are presenting good performance, even being copied by bigger competitors? And why one of them has presented continuous double-digit growth over the last four years? Because the other 4 + 1 failed, teaching me lessons that cannot be taught by success. It is called learning from one’s mistakes. Due to my trajectory and performance, I have been invited several times to teach strategy and entrepreneurship classes: paradoxical, isn’t it? Not in Portugal. In Portugal, an entrepreneur who fails is often labeled as a loser.
I currently teach at three global business schools, ranked by the Financial Times as top 3 in Europe and Latin America, because in these institutions the experience of error is highlighted; I share with MBA, Post-MBA, Master’s Degree, and Executive students the insights of a person who has experienced the pains of entrepreneurship (and still does).
There are cases in the world where an entrepreneur has only received investments after having made mistakes and failed (i.e., going bankrupt at least twice), because the investors considered that the best education comes from failures rather than from victories.
Our culture still has a lot to learn on this subject; this should start at schools, where error is stigmatized and penalized; the student who makes a mistake is “stupid” and is ostracized. In companies, those who make mistakes are deemed unprepared or negligent, and entrepreneurs who fail are deemed incompetent. I have lost count of how many times I have heard people say about entrepreneurs who failed: “I knew it,” “he does not understand anything about it,” “anybody could have seen it coming.” Do you think that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or Jeff Bezos, just to name the most renowned successful entrepreneurs and visionaries of our time, have always gotten it right? Apple went bankrupt before becoming the world’s most valuable company, for example. Space X's first missions went awry, leading to millions of dollars in losses. Only in a dictionary does success come before work. All these entrepreneurs failed and made mistakes, and some of them made huge mistakes before they became references.
I am not saying that being an entrepreneur is synonymous with failing; however, if we are not prepared to fail, we will not be able to move forward.
So, if I can give a piece of advice, of the kind that touches the soul and the wallet, follow what you believe, focus on what you believe, and learn from what you believe, on the certainty that tomorrow we will be better than we are today, and that today we are already better than we were yesterday, since our mistakes, defeats, and failures strengthen us, making us grow and evolve. It is not the one who fails that loses; it is the one who stops trying.
Luis Rasquilha, CEO Inova Consulting