fbpx

How to Cope with a Failed Business

A despondent entrepreneur whose business has failed.

To say that COVID-19 devastated the U.S. economy is an understatement. According to Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report, nearly 100,000 American businesses that temporarily shut down due to the pandemic are now permanently shuttered.

That’s a lot of broken dreams. That’s a lot of lost money. And that’s a lot of people who are desperately searching for answers on how to move forward.

It’s a topic that CapForge CEO Matt Remuzzi knows all about. Aside from founding CapForge in 2000, Remuzzi has launched multiple other businesses over the years, many of which did not pan out as he hoped. But instead of letting it deter him from his dream, he used the experience to propel him towards success.

“One of the hardest lessons for me to learn as an entrepreneur was that even with the best planning and a full effort, some things simply don’t work the way you wanted them to and had envisioned they would,” Remuzzi said. “That can be hard to accept at first. But if you learn from it and do better the next time and don’t let that particular event define everything else you do then in the big picture it’s not really a failure at all but just a learning experience you can use to your advantage the next time.”

Remuzzi is living proof that with the right mindset, anyone can survive a flop and move on to the next idea. And he’s hardly the first person to do so! There are countless other examples of entrepreneurs who have demonstrated the power of resilience, which brings us to our first point:

Know That You Are Not Alone

Surely you’ve heard of Richard Branson before, the billionaire business tycoon who founded the Virgin Group, which currently operates more than 400 companies across multiple industries. As one of the world’s richest men, it’s hard to imagine any of his companies going under. But make no mistake about it: Branson has suffered multiple failed business ventures—and he’s not ashamed of it in the least bit.

“The best lessons are usually learned from failure,” Branson reflected. “You mustn’t beat yourself up if you fail—just pick yourself up, learn as much as you can from the experience, and get on with the next challenge… The brave may not live forever, but the cautious never live at all.”

It’s a point that’s been echoed by many other household names in the business world, including J.K. Rowling, author of the massively successful Harry Potter books. Prior to becoming the world’s first billionaire author, Rowling was struggling to make ends meet as a single mother—to the point where she was living off of government assistance and at risk of becoming homeless.

You might also be interested to know that her first manuscript was rejected by 12 different publishers before it was finally accepted by Bloomsbury. Her message to aspiring entrepreneurs? Don’t let failure deter you.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default,” Rowling remarked.

Want another example? How about automobile manufacturer Henry Ford.

Did you know that Ford burned through all the money from his first group of investors without having produced a single car? And did you know that even after he eventually produced a car and raised another $60,000 in share capital, his Detroit Auto Company still went bankrupt?

Despite these setbacks, Ford never gave up—and thank goodness for that, considering how much we as a society have benefited from his work.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again,” Ford observed. “This time, more intelligently.”

We could go on and on with the list of business magnates who suffered devastating defeats before attaining their ultimate goal. However, the point is you’re not alone; you can and you will come back from this!

Give Yourself Time to Process

Right now, you’re probably feeling a mixture of sadness, anger, anxiety, disappointment, and regret. That’s a perfectly normal part of the grieving process.

“Grief?!” you say. “Isn’t that something you experience after the death of a loved one?!”

While it’s true that we typically associate grief with the loss of a loved one, this powerful emotion can be experienced any time we lose anything of significant value to us. In this case, you likely poured your heart and soul into your business (along with much of your finances!) only for it all to come crashing down. That’s not small potatoes.

It hurts. And like any wound, it’s going to take time to heal. That’s why the best thing you can do right now is give yourself time to process.

This is where self-care comes into play (we know, we know, such a cliché). But it really is true! Research has shown that self-care not only fosters resilience, but can also help you live longer and leave you better equipped to handle stress.

What does self-care look like? That’s a bit of a difficult question to answer, considering it differs depending on the person. However, a good place to start is by considering the different kinds of self-care:

  • Physical. Examples include prioritizing sleep, getting a massage, exercising, and eating nutritious foods.
  • Emotional. Like journaling, taking a bubble bath, talking your issues out with a friend or loved one, and allowing yourself to cry.
  • Spiritual. Such as meditating, praying, or attending a religious service.
  • Mental. For instance, taking a vacation, spending time on a hobby, or reading a book.

One common misconception about self-care is that you should always strive to focus on the positive while ignoring or repressing the negative. Not only is this strategy completely ineffective, but it can actually prolong the healing process.

That’s because, as renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “What you resist persists.” It’s similar to the way that those who are new to meditation attempt to clear their mind by “pushing out” intrusive thoughts. It doesn’t work. That’s why experienced meditators will tell you to acknowledge the thought and let it pass instead.

During your healing time, you’re bound to have negative thoughts and emotions boil to the surface. Don’t fight it; work through it.

Reflect On Your Mistakes… and Learn From Them

It may not seem like it now, but there may come a time—perhaps years down the road—when you discover that the failure you’re currently experiencing was the best thing that ever happened to you.

History is filled with breakthrough discoveries that were predicated on mistakes. Take the pacemaker, for example.

Wilson Greatbatch stumbled upon this invention in 1956 by complete accident! At the time, Greatbatch was trying to build a device that could record the heart’s rhythm. However, things took an unexpected turn when he reached into a box of equipment and pulled out a resistor of the wrong size. When he plugged the resistor into the circuit, it made a beating sound reminiscent of the human heart.

According to a 2001 obituary published by The New York Times, it reminded Greatbatch of conversations he had with other scientists about whether electrical impulses could be used to regulate heartbeats. If so, it could treat arrhythmia, a medical condition in which the heart beats irregularly.

Prior to then, pacemakers were bulky devices the size of TVs. But Greatbatch’s serendipitous discovery reduced the size to just two cubic inches, small enough to be implanted into the human body. Today, over 500,000 pacemakers are implanted every year, saving countless lives.

Realistically speaking, you’re probably going to make numerous mistakes before you have your own a-ha moment. As lightbulb inventor Thomas Edison once famously said, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

It’s a philosophy that Tesla CEO Elon Musk lives by. While most people spend their lives trying to avoid mistakes, he openly embraces them.

“Failure is an option here,” Musk said. “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

American media mogul Sumner Redstone shared a similar outlook, which undoubtedly helped him amass a fortune.

“Success is not built on success,” Redstone declared. “It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe.”

Indeed. The road to success is littered with mistakes and there’s no way of getting around it, so buckle up and embrace the rough patches.

Seek Professional Help

We all have our breaking point; that moment when all the stress you’ve been dealing with becomes too much to bear. It’s times like this that we become susceptible to unhealthy methods of coping, often turning to drugs, alcohol, and even suicide for relief.

If you feel like you’ve lost everything and there’s nothing worth living for, you wouldn’t be the first. Ben Huh, CEO of The Cheezburger Network, contemplated suicide following a failed startup in 2001.

“I was thoroughly broke, depressed, and feeling the burden of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars of other people’s money,” Huh wrote in a profoundly personal post titled When Death Feels like a Good Option. “Loneliness, darkness, hopelessness… those words don’t capture the feeling of the profound self-doubt that sets in after a failure.”

Fortunately, Huh did not follow through on his suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, other entrepreneurs have.

In 2013, Jody Sherman, founder of the e-commerce site Ecomom, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to TheStreet, financial woes related to his business going under led him to take his own life.

Two years prior, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, co-founder of the social networking site Diaspora, took his own life under similar pretenses. He was just 22 years old.

But even if suicide isn’t on your mind, you should also be aware that you are vulnerable to developing an addiction.

“Business owners, in particular, can be susceptible to gambling, drug use, and other vices because these activities mimic the highs and lows of turning a startup into a multimillion dollar enterprise,” Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor Marvin Dumont explained.

If you’re struggling with any of these issues, know that help is out there. Listed below are some FREE resources you can turn to for support:

In conclusion, being an entrepreneur is not easy. It comes with a lot of risks. Sometimes those risks pan out well and sometimes they don’t. But know that you can overcome any challenge that comes your way, no matter how big or small. In the words of Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Spread the word: