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How Do We Handle Business Failure?

Despite our best efforts, businesses fail. Sometimes the failures are large, such as the bankruptcies of major corporations. The cessation of investment bank Lehman Brothers in the financial crisis is one example, and the recent closing of Toys R Us is another. Sometimes business failures are smaller, like the high proportion of small business start-ups that don’t succeed.

Business failure can also feel personal. Perhaps a promotion you want is awarded to someone else. Employees and managers can both become redundant.

Whatever the case and whatever the cause, a business failure can be painful. It can feel like a personal judgment even when the causes are clearly large, such as the macroeconomic climate, market trends, or a failure of business leadership. It can arouse anxiety and fear that it will become permanent.

Yet people do recover and even flourish in the wake of business failure. What are the best ways to bounce back from failure?

1.  Strive to be resilient 

“Resilience” has become something of a corporate buzzword. But it’s become a buzzword for a reason. Everyone at some point experiences a setback. Resilience is a group of attitudes and behaviors that enable people to take a hit, process it, and move on. Resilient people focus on the future and their goals, not on what is in the past.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks.

  1. Process your emotions 

It’s also important to feel the feelings you have about failure. Focusing on the future and processing your emotions can be a balancing act. One way to do the latter is to recognize that everyone will have some negative emotions associated with failure. Sadness, inadequacy, regret…let yourself feel them before you let them go.

  1. Recognize the role of luck in success 

We live in a time when business success is admired and extolled. That’s all well and good. The past several decades have multiple examples of notable business strategy successes. But this admiration can have a negative side. People who have experienced failure might feel even worse when they think of business success. One solution is to recognize how much luck is a factor in all business. Good luck, and bad.

  1. Realize the inevitability of rejection

Rejection occurs all the time in business. Ideas are shot down. Customer bases go to another company. Plans don’t fully work out. The fact is, to deal effectively in business, you have to deal effectively with rejection. Realize that rejection is inevitable. Be aware that it isn’t personal. It’s a good plan to factor in a high quotient of rejection as part of your plan. That way, you’re on top of rejection, not dealing with it as a setback.

  1. Appreciate the positives

One of the best ways to recover from a setback is to look at the positive elements in your life. Make a list of everything you have to be grateful for in your personal life. Then, review the business setback. Was any part of it helpful or beneficial? Did you learn something about business or yourself you didn’t know before? It can be very useful to realize these elements for the next go-around.