You have probably heard the expression that entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride. There are those great moments of fulfillment where you feel that everything is going your way. And then you also have those failures in life.
Times when you will feel that you were hit by an oncoming train. Moments that will make you question your entrepreneurial journey and make you wonder if the struggle is worth it.
I had, in my 15 years of entrepreneurial life, experienced several of these dark moments. At the time, these experiences felt unrecoverable. I felt like quitting and throwing it all away. But ultimately, these failures in life led me to become stronger and deal with greater adversity.
That Time I fell for a Charmer
In my early years, I fell for many charmers. These people appear out of nowhere. They can come in the form of employees, customers, or contractors. They show up in your business life at a time when you are struggling, and they charm your socks off. They convince you that they are the solution you have been waiting for.
A few years ago, I was approached by some businessmen from an emerging market. They wanted me to provide my technical know-how so they could help set up operations in their country. The plan was to hire me as a consultant and to pay me a retainer and assist them along the way.
They visited my facilities, took me out, and kept on telling me what a great guy I was. I was flattered. They promised profit-sharing agreements and long-lasting collaboration.
There was just one problem: They kept on deflecting the issue of starting a formal collaboration. All these guys wanted was to milk as much information out of me without ever paying me.
In the end, I had to cut all ties with them. But I felt used and taken advantage of, especially after all my emotional investment into the deal.
An Empty Bank Account and Maxed Out Credit
Cash flow is one of the most important but also the most underestimated component when running a business. Without cash, you can’t pay your staff, your suppliers, your advertising, and all your other operations.
When you run a business, you can go from 5 figures in your bank account to just $10 very quickly. One minute you are coasting, and the next, you are checking your wallet to see if you have enough money to pay for gas on your way home.
Before you realize it, you have exhausted your overdraft and other credit facilities (like credit cards!). A few slow months can reap havoc on your cash flow. It seems that you are making a profit on paper, but cash is nowhere to be found.
I have experienced these moments in the winter months when income from construction activities slows down. All businesses have seasonal cycles, so be aware when your slow months come around. Make sure that you have a large enough buffer of cash for those difficult months.
Not having money for an adult can be one of the most humbling failures in life.
Getting Abandoned at the Worst Possible Time
It’s peak season. The business is facing multiple delivery deadlines. Stress levels are high. Everyone is working at maximum capacity, and many members of staff are putting in extra hours.
And then one of your key members of staff has a tantrum and decides to quit at the worst possible moment. They cite being overworked. Up until that point, this person has not even voiced a complaint. They have not once asked for additional support in their tasks.
And you, the business owner, feels abandoned and let down by the people you trusted. You need to scramble and find a way to replace that person while keeping up with all the deadlines.
For an entrepreneur that takes his work seriously, not being able to deliver what he has promised is one of his biggest failures in life.
Abandonment can come in other forms as well. I had a supplier promise me delivery of crucial supplies for a specific date. I had programmed my entire production around that delivery, as I needed to ship out a large order.
The problem was that my supplier had been lying all along. He didn’t want to lose the order to a competitor, so he gave me a fake delivery date.
Always remember that you are the owner of the business. Your employees and suppliers will never sweat over your business as you do. The buck stops with you.
The Big Orders not Coming Through
One of my biggest failures in life, came in the summer of 2017. We were getting ready to close the business for a week during our August break. Two of my big customers informed me that they were planning on placing large orders at the end of August. So I started planning, pre-ordering supplies, and allocating resources.
I became somewhat complacent and took these orders for granted. I stopped following up with other customers, thinking that my production capacity would be maxed out. These were existing customers that had a strong track record of placing orders.
When the time came for the official orders to come in, both customers flaked out on me. They led me on for a few months, telling me lets talk next week or in 15 days. But they never placed these grand orders that they had promised. In fact, they did not order for another year!
Now, I was stuck with a stock of raw materials that I had pre-emptively ordered. I also had a pipeline of leads that had dried up as I had not done any work nurturing new customers.
Moral of the story: Unless you see the advance payment in your bank, there is no order. Never take the order for granted. Some people make fake promises all the time about their intentions.
Google Shuts down your ads account
It happened to me with Google ads. Google search ads are crucial for the operation of my construction goods business. 80% of my qualified traffic comes from Google Search.
I was in the middle of my peak season when one morning I woke up to learn that Google had disabled all my ads because of malicious code on my website. I hired a developer to track the code down, but he couldn’t find anything. I reached out to my Google Ads rep, who was also unable to help.
For ten days, my ads were offline because of the malicious code. Then, one morning, my ads were re-instated. No notification, no apologies. It seemed that some glitch in Google had thought that my website had been hacked.
You are probably thinking, is this considered one of your big failures in life? Yes, because during those ten days, I lost thousands of euros in revenue. Cash that I desperately needed, to run my business.
I’ve seen this happen to too many companies. They rely on one source of internet traffic to bring in new business. Maybe it’s organic traffic from search results that brings them lots of new leads. Until, one day, Google changes its algorithm, and the traffic dries up.
I’ve seen it happen to businesses with Facebook ads. They have built their entire business model by relying on Facebook ads as their top source of leads. One day their account gets disabled for violating a policy. Suddenly this business has no way to access new customers.
Entrepreneurship Also has its Glorious Moments
An article like this one can easily scare someone from starting their own business. But in the end, the journey is worth it cause the highs are better than the lows. The glorious days are better than the failures in life.
There’s a special feeling you get when a customer tells me how much his business has grown due to the support I gave him. Another time I had a hotel owner call and told me how his guests loved the new pool deck that I had supplied.
There’s also a feeling of personal satisfaction when you see your financial situation improve year after year, like being able to afford a fancy getaway without needing to worry about work or money.
All these moments make the journey of entrepreneurship fulfilling. Prepare for the hard times, but make sure that you celebrate the good times. Every one of your failures in life, has a lesson to teach you