How To Turn Business Failure Into Opportunity

Shaun H. Ruff

One of the hardest challenges an entrepreneur can face is when a business is failing. Because of our attachment to what we’ve created, watching something we built head in the wrong direction or outright fail can be very emotionally devastating. And yet, it is those with a growth mindset that see and believe that even failure posits an opportunity for something better.

This conversation is specifically important right now as COVID-19 continues to ravage the global economy, where businesses are failing by no fault of their own. September 2020’s Yelp Economic Impact Report stated that since March, over 160,000 businesses have shut down. Whether COVID-19 has contributed to dire straits in business or other circumstances (such as cofounder struggles, mistakes, hindered cash flow, or something ‘just not working’) are presenting insurmountable obstacles, there is opportunity there. 

Few know this better than Tiana Burse, who launched a social media consulting agency called District Media Press that operated for several years without turning even a penny in profit. Frustrated, Tiana took inventory of everything that was going wrong and applied her learnings to do a full turnaround. She shares how founders can find and take advantage of opportunities even when things aren’t working out as planned.

Internalize Your Learnings And Apply Them 

Nothing happens without presenting a learning opportunity. “When I realized my business was heading nowhere fast, I combed over every single detail, looking for what I could learn from the experience,” Burse shared. “My question became: how can I pivot this business with a focus on growth based on the data I have in front of me?” If things haven’t been going well, make sure you understand why in depth. If it’s because of outside sources, note them. If there was a missed opportunity or a mistake made along the way, note them. 

“It can be hard to come face-to-face with what you could’ve done differently, but choosing to find the lessons is the only productive way to move forward. If you’re afraid to look for the lessons and apply them, you’re missing out on resurrecting your business or one day starting another successful business. The successful pivot of District Media Press came from this painstaking assessment and reiteration process.”

As you look over your financial statements, strategies, marketing plans, and consumer behavior information, be honest and real about what could have gone differently. In some cases, working with a business coach or consultant can help you to see what you can’t see on your own.

Use Your learnings To Help Others

Challenging experiences always create learnable moments for others, too, if you choose to share them. Burse is now a public speaker who shares her entrepreneurial advice and story with people across the nation. “I decided to turn my experience and everything I learned into a Facebook watch series called ‘Hustle Season,’ which I do in partnership with Facebook,” Burse shared. “It isn’t just about hustling. It’s real content backed by my real experiences, which is why viewers find it so helpful.” 

If you have overcome a struggle, know that someone out there needs to hear what you learned from the experience. And, if you’re still in the midst of the struggle, know that one day you will be on the other side of it. Change your perspective to look for the lessons, and think about what you would tell others to avoid or to pursue. One interesting way of doing this is by asking yourself, “Knowing what I know now (or, what I’m coming to know now), what would I advise to my younger self?” As in Burse’s case, public speaking or even a video series based on your experiences could be opportunities in the future.

Sometimes Failure Is A Launchpad 

There are many inspiring stories of the most famous and legendary founders of our time having failed previously. Failure is never the end of the road. One such example is the founder of GoPro, Nick Woodman, who had two failed startups before he founded GoPro. Actually, he credits his ardent desire to avoid a third failure to his ambition and focus in creating the GoPro product and brand. Sometimes, the right circumstances need to align for what you’re ultimately going to create. 

Burse’s own evolution to her Facebook series and talks proved to her how much failure can be a launchpad. “Sometimes failure is just telling you that something needs to change. It’s up to you to listen to that and do something about it. Sure, things weren’t going well for a long time in my business – and, I was operating it with zero capital. But, it was because of the challenges that I was able to make changes in the right direction and forge new branches of my career, which ultimately has helped me help others.” 

Whatever you’re going through, keep going. You may just look back and see how much this period was a launchpad of its own for you and your evolution – in your business, or for you personally.

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