Starting over when a business venture fails

7 min read
Leighton Burley

Few things are more deflating to an entrepreneur than having to “pull the plug” on a business. You’ve invested your time, energy and sweat equity into it, and built it up from just an idea. Now, for whatever reason, you’re forced to watch as your project fails, taking with it your hopes. The thought of starting over can be exhausting.

Business failures can take the business owner by surprise.

How do you move on and face the prospect of beginning again? In this article, we’ll look at some of the strategies successful entrepreneurs have used to learn from their experiences and rise again.

Even the most successful find themselves starting over

Starting Over Photo of SpaceX Control Room
Elon Musk hasn’t always been successful.

One of my favorite examples of an entrepreneur who continues to push forward, despite setbacks, is Elon Musk. Few people know the struggles this self-made entrepreneur faced on his path to founding Tesla and SpaceX.

Early on, Musk founded Zip2, a newspaper syndication software, with his brother. He was later ousted as CEO by the board of directors because they thought he lacked the skill set to function as CEO.

He then focused his energy on starting over, and set out to create an online payment system.

Musk’s first product, (now PayPal), was voted one of the 10 worst business ideas of the era.

In early 2000, merged with Confinity, their biggest online banking competitor. Musk retained his position as CEO and the largest shareholder. Later that year, Musk was once again ousted by the board of directors, this time while he was on his honeymoon.

Despite these setbacks, Musk pushed forward with his endeavors, refusing to accept defeat or feel pity for himself. This resolve led to more and greater opportunities, including the founding of Tesla and SpaceX, both of which are cutting-edge technological giants.

How will I know if I need to start over?

Feel like your business is floundering, but not sure if you truly need to abandon it and start over? One of the first steps to take before you make any drastic moves is to consult a trusted advisor to assess your position. That person could be your mentor, advisor or someone else who understands your situation well.

You don’t want to make rash business decisions without fully assessing your situation.

Find someone who can help you honestly evaluate your company’s standing, its strengths and weaknesses, and your ability to succeed in the market. It’s important not to allow an emotional attachment to cloud your analysis, as this can result in you clinging to a ship that’s bound to sink.

You might decide to “stick it out” when, in reality, you should be seriously considering starting over. This is why it’s so important to work through this analysis with a trusted, neutral advisor.

Starting Over Two Women Talking
Talking with trusted peers and advisors can help you decide what to do.

Here are two important questions to ask and answer during the assessment:

Is your company still relevant?

Is your business in danger of becoming obsolete, due to technological or other advancements? How about your business model — is it sustainable? Is your cash flow healthy or are you barely scraping by? Are you consistently hitting growth targets? If not, why? Questions like these help identify how your business is performing within the market and assess the overall health of your company.

Do you enjoy your work?

One of the biggest factors that contributes to the success or failure of a business is an entrepreneur’s enjoyment of their work. If you have a passion for your work, you have a much greater chance of succeeding than you would if you hated your work.

True passion helps to guard against the burnout that plagues many entrepreneurs.

If you don’t enjoy your work, you should seriously reevaluate your job options, and consider starting over before it’s too late.

Tips on recovering

There are two important things successful entrepreneurs do in the face of failure. If your business has run its course and you need to start over, follow these two rules:

Disconnect failures from your personal identity

Failure is a natural part of your path to improvement. If handled correctly, it can be a stepping stone and actually help you make progress. Many professionals, however, take missteps personally and allow it to impact their self-identity. Yes, you might have failed, but that doesn’t define you as a failure.

Many of the world’s greatest successes came after countless defeats.

Instead of taking failure personally, think of it as a step in your path to success, and learn from it as you move toward starting over.

Be honest about your mistakes and learn from them

To learn from your past mistakes, you must be honest about your shortcomings. If you constantly place the blame for failure on outside sources, you’ll never evaluate the missteps you took in the past and how you can improve in the future.

Honest self-reflection is crucial to learn from your mistakes and an important step on your path to improvement.

How to reset for your next challenge

Entrepreneur recently asked a group of successful entrepreneurs what they would do if they suddenly lost everything and had to face starting over again. Here’s what they said.

Step back and reflect

The stress of managing a failing business can be immense. The vision that got you started has long faded, and your focus has shifting to merely surviving and navigating the choppy waters of financial ruin. It’s crucial that you take the time to step back from everything and reflect on your purpose before starting over with a relaunch or a new endeavor.

Take time to travel, rest and rejuvenate

Starting Over Woman Relaxing on Balcony
Travel and reflection can help you recover from a failed venture.

As we’ve mentioned, navigating a failing enterprise is extremely stressful and can take its toll on you, physically, mentally and emotionally. In response to a business failure, it’s suggested that you take time off to travel, think and rejuvenate. This will prepare you to attack your next endeavor with renewed motivation and vision.

Pull in tight with your support group

Business failures are difficult. There is no better time to pull in tight with your support group. Whether this is your family, friends, colleagues or mentorship hub, having access to this source of support is incredibly important for your mental health and well-being as you begin the lengthy process of starting over. And who knows! Maybe they will be the source of your next brainchild.

Search for unique ways to turn failure into success

Some of the greatest successes have come on the heels of tragic failures. Do your best to see the positive aspects of your failures, and search for new opportunities that might arise from them.

Get back in the game

Being an entrepreneur is all about taking a seed of an idea, nurturing it and watching it grow into a thriving business. Does that magic happen every time? No way.

Successful entrepreneurs use their failures as fertilizer to feed their next big idea.

In this article, we reviewed some tactics that other entrepreneurs have employed when dealing with failure. You can use them to help reset your focus, restore your drive for success and get you back in the game.

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