Facing the Fear of Business Failure

Recently on LinkedIN I posted a request in my groups to receive submissions for various topics of interest that group members would like me to write about in this blog and elsewhere. One of the topics that had a high level of interest was 'what to do if you think your business is in trouble', likely a topic of wide-spread interest given today's economic climate. However, before I could even start thinking about what I would write to address this request, one of my networking friends sent me an article that he had written which I believe to be a very strong first step to saving your business. This particle article is directed toward franchisees, however, it equally applies to any small business owner and I think all will find it of value.

Facing Failure

I can personally relate to the trials and tribulations of owning a small business as I have "been there and done that" and have experiences on both ends of the spectrum from achieving overwhelming success to dealing with bitter failure. I have definitely come to understand the fine line between success and failure in trying to nail down the American Dream.

I know it is sometimes counterproductive to even mention failure which is why the subject is always avoided and never discussed. Yet, it's out there and it's real. Once business owners face the possibility of failure and its very real consequences they can be motivated to understand that failure is not an option and commit 100% to a plan that addresses immediate problems and provides solutions accordingly. Even if it's necessary for the plan to be quite drastic or aggressive due to prevailing circumstances, business owners that unequivocally realize that failure is not an option are prepared for immediate action.

Let me emphasize one point. Business owners (entrepreneurs) should not view poor sales and disappointing profits as either potential or immediate failure and stick their heads in the sand. I made that mistake in the past and suffered the consequences. Instead, they should build upon the courage it took to become a small business owner and recommit to success as they did when they first took the entrepreneurial plunge.

They need to remember their wishes, hopes and dreams that prompted the decision to own their own business? They need to remember the admiration of family and friends when they heard about the new venture? They need to remember the excitement when they actually signed their first lease?

Let me clarify something. I failed in business ownership as a franchisee. Not because of anything the franchisor did or didn't do but because I put and kept my head in the sand and did not face reality. I could go on and make excuses about things that happened around me but at the end of the day I could have turned things around if I got my own head out of the sand, made some difficult decisions and took full, immediate responsibility.

Unfortunately I was scared of failing. I was afraid of what people would think. I was ashamed at what other franchisees, ones I put in business, would think of me. I couldn't even think of facing my family. All lame excuses for not taking responsibility. Maybe a hard swift kick you-know-where would have helped.

Did I mention that I previously ran the franchise company where I failed as a franchisee? Did I mention I was elected by fellow franchisees, President of the National Advisory Council? Did I mention that I owned and operated five franchise units?

If I had clearly understood the implications and consequences that were looming on the horizon and if I was able to get my big ego out of the way and address things head on, maybe I could have survived. Maybe I could have at least implemented an exit strategy that would have, in some small way, paid back the loyalty and support of my employees, family and friends.

In the end, I may not have survived because it may very well have been too late when and if I finally took action and responsibility. But maybe I could have at least exited with some dignity. Also, I could have saved many innocent people a great deal of hardship, embarrassment, wasted effort and ill-spent resources if I did face reality. This includes my family, my employees and yes, my franchisor; all who believed in me. Yes, it was a tremendous learning experience but not one I would bestow or wish on anyone.

As we've entered 2009 in the realms of economic uncertainty, I'm certain already difficult situations have been compounded but I'm confident a snap back to reality could only help. By facing the failure head on, the path to success will be clearer than it's been for some time. I once read "the greatest achievement in life is to stand up again after failing." How very true.

Paul Segreto is Founder and President at 21st Century Franchise Coach with over twenty years' senior level management, marketing and development experience exclusively within the franchising industry. Paul can be contacted by email segreto.paul@gmail.com. Company website can be viewed at www.21stCenturyFranchiseCoach.com.

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