When I felt I was struggling to run Billie Goat Soap it felt like I couldn’t relate to other business people around me. I had always been an avid reader of business magazines (I had a subsription to BRW and loved it) but when times were tough I felt a huge disconnect between my feelings and the words espoused in Australian business media.
Eventually I stopped reading BRW. I didn’t buy the Australian Financial Review anymore, and I unsubscribed from all the entrepreneurial blogs I was reading regularly. Why? Because all these things only served to reinforce that I was a failure. I couldn’t bear to compare how I was feeling at the time to the words on the page. I just couldn’t relate to them anymore.
Sometimes the tales of business struggles in the blogs or magazines were unrealistic, or incomplete. I know that now because I have been there! In fact, I am guilty of spreading the the fairytale myth…you know the one, where you hear about the chaotic embryonic stages of a business strewn across a lounge room floor and then the next sentence talks about moving into a larger, more business like premises because the house was about to burst. There is actually fear, doubt and money involved in that step away from home. Nobody (including me at the time) talks about that in the media.
Worse still, if there is coverage about a business struggle, it’s always delivered with a happy ending. For example, “I’d tried to sell my product into Store X and they said no but as luck would have it I sat next to their General Manager on a plane flight from Melbourne to Sydney and managed to talk him into it while we were in the air”. The reader gets a hint of the struggle but can then relax because it was all ok in the end. For some small business owners though, it’s not ok in the end. If they didn’t get Store X they may have had to make some workers redundant and scale back production. You won’t hear about that in the media unless, of course, it’s a multi-national like Toyota.
I don’t want to be a Negative Nelly, but I do want to acknowledge that some for some people, some times there isn’t a happy ending, and that’s ok. In fact, I think if, as a community we talked more about failure in all its forms and normalised it rather than ignore it we would see people recover faster from their struggles. This is especially true for small business owners/entrepreneurs. It would be great to balance the hero stories with some struggle stories so that the readers could see that even failures are actually wins in the end. Yes, we all seem to get to that philosophical point eventually but perhaps we’d reach this outcome faster if we weren’t afraid to share our stories more often. As I’ve mentioned before, the biggest struggle that small business owners face in times of crisis is a sense of isolation. I have a hunch the same is true for all of us when we experience failure – we think we’re the only ones who fail.
So this week I’d like to invite everyone to get brave and share one failure story with someone else. Reveal something about yourself that your ego would prefer you kept quiet. Show someone your vulnerable side, and try to resist the urge to round off with a happy ending tale. Let someone know you failed and that was ok. The fact that you’re sharing your story is the happy ending. You are proof that failure is survivable and importantly, acceptable. Be a Super Failure Hero this week…you might just help someone recover from their own experiences more quickly. You may never know either way, and that’s ok too xxx