Can Failure Help You Succeed?

What’s the opposite of success? If your immediate reaction was to say “failure,” we suggest that you shift your thinking. It might sound cliché, but we would argue that the opposite of success is never actually taking a chance and risking failure. And as for failure itself? Well, while we’re not saying that it’s something you should shoot for, it doesn’t always have to mean the end of anything. It might just be a temporary setback, a jumping off point, or even, if you look at it in the right way, a way to push yourself toward success. Hey, even Albert Einstein once said, “Failure is success in progress” – and he flunked out of high school!

So consider this: what do Milton Hershey, Walt Disney, and Bill Gates have in common? Well, besides being synonymous with success in our minds today, all three of them started at least one business that failed spectacularly before they became successful. In the end, what mattered for them wasn’t that they had failures, but how they reacted to and learned from them. So what can you learn from YOUR setbacks on your path to success?

Your Failures Are Great Learning Opportunities

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Every time you fail. you gain a little more experience and knowledge as to what works and what doesn’t.

Whether you’re the impulsive type or the most meticulous planner around when it comes to your business decisions, there are always going to be unforeseen outcomes of your actions and choices. Once you’ve made a few attempts to reach your goals (again, the important thing here is getting out there and trying!), you’ll not only have gained a little more experience and knowledge, but you’ll also have a concrete, visual representation of what works – and what doesn’t. 

So, while you should do all the proper planning that you can, think about it this way: you could see the visible evidence of your failures as embarrassing, but why? Why not see them as a necessary part of finding a solution that works?

Failure Gives You Time to Reassess

Here’s a question to ponder: are successes always the best things for you and your business? Sure, success feels good, and might bring short-term benefits, but successes that are easy can leave a lot of room for failure, because they can make you feel that nothing could ever go wrong.

Not only that, but if you’ve picked a path and set yourself on cruise control without taking time to look around and assess that path, then these successes could put blinders on you in another way. Chasing successes that aren’t right for you or your business – and just automatically moving towards that vision of success – could mean that you’re not looking around and taking time to reassess and readjust. Experiencing a failure or two could be a sign that it’s time to look around and make sure you’re where you need and want to be, and a great time (and excuse) to move in a new direction that’s right for you. 

Opening Up About Your Failures Can Be Powerful

To go back to the idea of failure being somehow embarrassing, we would urge you not to just sweep your failures under the rug and move on, simply because you’re worried about how others will see you and your failed endeavors. Remember this: everyone fails at some point (see above: Walt Disney, Milton Hershey, Bill Gates, etc, etc), and that means you’ve got a potentially unlimited pool of insight to tap into if you open up about what didn’t work for you. Have the courage to talk about your failures with the business leaders around you who have been there, done that, and you could end up with some seriously helpful new perspectives.

person sitting down and another person standing up pointing towards a screen with graphs on it
Talking with other business leaders about your failures can teach them lessons.

Not only that, but by opening up about your failures, you allow others to learn lessons from you! After all, there’s no failure that isn’t a valuable lesson to someone, somewhere.

Facing Your Fear of Failure Can Move You Forward

Have you ever shied away from doing something that you wanted to do because you knew you couldn’t immediately be highly successful at it? That fear of failure can limit what you think you’re capable of, and can lead you to quit before you even try. But you can’t expect to sit down at a piano for the first time and be Mozart; you’ve got to learn your scales and bang out some sour notes for a long time first. 

So why hold yourself to an impossibly high standard of success when it comes to your business? If you continue to do so, you’ll never set yourself up for the small wins that lead to bigger, more satisfying wins, or for reaching the smaller goals that will get you one step closer to your larger goal.  

Fear of failure can also inhibit your decision making, even causing you to avoid making the tough decisions altogether – which will only end in missed opportunities, not better outcomes. Let go of the fear, and flex your decision-making muscles so you can become more practiced at making confident decisions, then build on the good ones and learn from the not-so-good ones.

Hey, we get it: failing doesn’t feel good. But sometimes failure teaches you things that success just can’t, and if you react to it in the right way, and seize the opportunities it gives you, it can make you more resilient, creative, motivated, and focused. And remember: failure can be scary and disheartening, but it doesn’t have to be, and it is always better than regret.

Setting Yourself Up For Success: Succession Planning

Building a business from the ground up is no small feat. It requires patience, commitment, and most of all, strategy. It’s like they say – if you fail to plan, you can plan to fail. So much of business growth is about strategic planning: you need an investment strategy, a growth strategy, a recruitment strategy, and more. One thing that often falls by the wayside is succession planning: building a clear framework for hiring, recruiting, and training top-tier employees who can progress up the chain of command.  Succession planning is critical for smooth transitions and uninterrupted business as roles within the company evolve and positions are vacated.

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You will be able to find, recruit, train, and retain high quality employees to support your business for the long term.

A Strategic Step

Succession planning is one of the first steps you should take when making your business plan. Planning for growth and turnover means that you will be able to find, recruit, train, and retain high quality employees to support your business for the long term. Organizations of all sizes need succession planning, as employees, position requirements, and duties can all change at the drop of a hat. If your business can’t adapt to these changes, then it can’t grow. 

Succession planning calls for recruiting employees that you are going to train for advancement and promotion to higher positions within the company. In order to begin this process, you should have a clear plan to develop their knowledge, skills, and certifications. This might include temporarily transferring them to different jobs or departments, having them participate in multidisciplinary projects and on-the-job shadowing, as well as sending them to relevant training seminars or investing in educational materials. 

Despite the time and investment all of this requires, there are bottom-line benefits to having a succession plan. A clear succession plan serves as a recruiting tool for strong, growth-oriented employees, who will appreciate knowing where their career with your organization is headed. This minimizes turnover, as new hires are more likely to stay with an organization where they can grow and learn. Additionally, by recruiting and cross-training employees for multiple positions within the organization, you prevent key responsibilities from falling through the cracks if employees resign or take a sudden leave of absence. Consider how much smoother the transition to finding a new employee would be when using a cross-trained employee to pick up the slack, as opposed to using a temporary worker. 

5 Steps for Successful Succession Planning

Succession planning should be assessed regularly and your plan should evolve to meet the needs of your organization. There are some key steps that you can take to make the process easier and more effective: 

  • Identify growth goals. A truly strategic succession plan requires knowing the vision and values of your organization. These will inform where your company is heading, and your succession plan can then include the roles and skills your organization will need to achieve these goals

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    Assess the employees you have, any potential gaps, and communicate with candidates.
  • Be proactive. There might be times when you know that a valuable team member is leaving the company, but other times you could be caught off guard and left scrambling to replace them. You should spend time evaluating each employee’s key roles and discern what their day-to-day impact is. This can help you become aware of how a sudden departure might affect your businesses’ operations. After identifying these potential gaps in staff, you have a foundation upon which to build a succession plan.
  • Take inventory. Assessing your current employees is an important aspect of your succession plan. It’s useful to know which employees in your organization are potential leaders, and what skills they currently offer. The general rule is that there should always be someone to fill in, should an employee depart suddenly (see step 2!). If you do identify skills gaps, then think about beefing up your professional development programs. It’s never too late to start offering learning opportunities for your staff through on-the-job shadowing, a mentoring program, or incentives for completing relevant training or seminars. By building a multifaceted and adaptable team, you are setting yourself and your employees up for success. 
  • Communicate with candidates. Once you understand what skills you have and what skills you need, you should inform potential candidates of opportunities for them to rise within your organization. While you must be careful not to make empty promises, you can have private meetings with them to discuss their careers, training, and personal development goals, as well as how you plan to support their continued success within your organization. Be open about what qualities in them have led you to consider them for advancement, and give them an opportunity to let you know whether they would even be interested in taking on a new role.  the word priority being stamped in red by a hand
  • Prioritize retention. Having systems in place to retain your employees helps ensure that your training, time, and investment in staff advancement are worth it. Offering high quality professional development, financial incentives, and a clear plan for employee growth are all great ways to retain your talented staff.

Succession planning should be a key aspect of any growing business. It is important to have employees who are highly skilled and adaptable to fill any potential gaps that arise as your business expands! By recruiting, training, and retaining high quality employees who can move up through the ranks, you will save time and money in the long run.