What to Do When Your Biz Morphs into a Big Fat #FAIL

by Cori Padgett-Bukowski · 16 comments

Business Failure
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I have a caveat for you: no matter how well-prepared you are for any eventuality in your business, no matter what you do to avoid all possible problems, you will never be able to ensure your success 100 percent.

Contrary to the popular adage, all’s NOT fair in love and war.

And make no mistake.

Business is war, complete with state-of-the-art technology and sly tactics to outdo the competition.  Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that going into business on your own is a cakewalk.

Sorry but it ain’t that easy.

It’s always a good thing to keep yourself prepared for any and all kinds of contingencies in your business.

And yet, sometimes there can still be big bad glitches in your plan or some unforeseeable circumstance that will knock you off your feet and make you land hard on your ass.  All those little pitfalls mama didn’t warn you about.

Jumping into the bidness fray nowadays is riskier than ever because the competition is stiffer and way more prolific.

Though it might feel (in the heat of the moment) like your business crashing in an epic fail is the absolute worst thing that could ever happen… wake up man!

There are actually way worse things that can happen in your life, that happen to other people every day.  So instead of wallowing in your quagmire of misery, here are a few “rules” to implement to help get you back on track and realize the worst really isn’t so bad after all.

Rule #1 Chalk it up to experience.

Lots of entrepreneurs try to make it good in the world of big and small competitors, but the truth is that many of them don’t even last the first year. A lot of things can go wrong in those first few months—not enough planning, not enough resources, not enough customers to push the business and keep it going.

So what’s a gal (or dude) to do when they encounter something so big that their business splatters all over the floor like a slimy spray of snot? (I know, totally gross, but I’m sick at the moment so it’s the visual that came to mind!)

You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and take what you can from the whole experience. It’s no use moping around and trying to drink yourself into a stupor or crying your eyes out. Nor does killing yourself solve any problems. The hard truth is sometimes business people win and sometimes business people lose.

Life and business takes guts.

Keeping a positive attitude will help you stay afloat through the initial shock and sadness of what feels like wicked failure.

And besides, I’m sure that even if you did some things wrong, you also did some things right. Focus on those successes, no matter how small they are, because you’re gonna need them the next time you open up shop.  Consider them the seedlings of renewed self-confidence and motivation to give it another go.

Rule #2 Find out what really happened.

Your business, which was doing fine just a few weeks back, is now suddenly a wreck.  Scratch that, a total wreck of epic proportions.

So, what happened?

The first thing you have to do when you’re also sober enough to think rationally is to ask the hard questions. You have to know exactly how and why things happened the way they did. Most importantly, you have to go back to the core reason for your failure, that one thing (or a good number of small things) that caused you to go belly up when you thought you were well on the way to lasting success.

  • Was poor planning the main reason your business plan didn’t work out the way you wanted it to?
  • Did you make any mistakes when it came to market analysis?
  • Should you have trained your personnel in a different way?

All these little factors have affected your business in one way or another. Humans are not infallible.

If you find out exactly what it is that landed you back at square one in the first place, then you should be able to avoid it the next time around. Analyze it, learn from it, and don’t do it again.

Rule #3 Study, study, study!

If you committed a major oopsie that brought down your business, don’t freak.  It only means that you lack knowledge or understanding in that particular area of the business. The most logical remedy to this insufficiency is to re-learn and revisit the lessons you went over when you were just exploring your original business idea.

Increase your knowledge, increase your wisdom, increase your success.

Every entrepreneur and freelancer knows that knowledge is key when it comes to succeeding. Your business failure might mean that there’s something you glossed over when you were preparing your business plan and getting your initial ducks in a row.  Maybe that aspect of the business didn’t interest you as much, so you shrugged it off as unimportant.

Now’s the time to re-evaluate your position, hit the books and take the steps to learn what you need to know to succeed.

I’ve always been a big fan of learning new things. Don’t be afraid to stare your mistakes in the face and beat them to the ground with new knowledge—at least then you’re better prepared for whatever might come your way on your next try. You don’t just learn from experience, sometimes you have to learn from the experience of others as well.

A personal note on failure.

I have to admit that I too have had certain really low points in my freelance career where I was tempted to throw in the towel.

There were times when there was so much work I was struggling to keep up… and there were also times when there was not so much as an iota of work on the horizon.  It ain’t always easy to keep the faith that biz will work out and I’ll continue to be able to work for myself forever.

However, I’ve been lucky enough not to fail in too abysmal a manner—yet.

Multiple small failures? Sure.

An epic fail where I had to throw in the towel for good? Not yet thank God.

But the sad yet true reality of being your own boss is that failure is almost always just around the corner. A single mistake or a grave turn of events can reduce your entire career into rubble.

I don’t say that to scare or discourage you, I say that simply to state reality and make you aware of what you face when you step out on your own.

Failure is not a possibility, it’s a given.  Learn to fail fast and fail forward.

Some folks give up after the first try and the first failure, but I say, why not try again? After all, you already know the basics to get started. You just have to build on those basics, refine your skills and knowledge, and prepare better for the next shot.

And listen… there’s nothing wrong with moping about and wailing about all the wasted planning and effort you put into your business. Have at it and get it out of your system.

But at the end of the day you have to know how to take out what’s good and throw out what’s bad in a situation.  And then get busy making some magic happen.


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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Siddharth Goyal November 19, 2010 at 6:14 AM

Hi Cori

I really like your point on “studying” since business is a lot like life. Creatures who adapt and evolve, survive; the rest, perish.
One thing important in business, as per the book The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber is to try and adopt a franchise model as soon as possible. My sincere appeal to all the readers of this blog is to read that book if they haven’t already. It changes you! (and that’s also why one should study :P ).
Siddharth Goyal recently posted..Facebook Mail- Possible Gmail KillerMy Profile


admin November 19, 2010 at 7:53 AM

Hey Sid! Agreed! I actually plan on picking that book up myself, you’re not the first whose recommended it to me. :) And studying most definitely changes and evolves you, I like to adopt a “constantly learning” mentality..both for business and life! lol


Famous Bloggers November 19, 2010 at 7:34 AM

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Andrew J. Gay November 19, 2010 at 10:55 AM


All too often failure is really more about preparation and determination than a lot of other things. We tend to want our failures to be chalked up to a single catastrophic event (usual beyond our control) instead of the reality, lot’s of little missteps left unchecked. Eventually people quit, due to a money, frustration, you name it.

I guess if being self employed was easy everyone would be doing it. Instead, it’s much more raw, like life, the strong survive. Human nature really, maybe that’s why I love it so much!


admin November 19, 2010 at 3:43 PM

Hey Andrew! So true, we do tend to look for “that one thing” don’t we? lol But you’re right, it’s often a series of little things that sort of snowball into a result you aren’t expecting, and not in a good way. :)


Nancy Freedman-Smith November 19, 2010 at 11:31 AM

RT @BeAGirl_Today: What to Do When Your Biz Morphs into a Big Fat #FAIL – http://su.pr/1hclvg #BGB


Stanford Smith November 20, 2010 at 1:05 AM

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Francisco Rosales November 20, 2010 at 3:19 AM

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Marci November 20, 2010 at 1:46 PM

My favorite line is “fail fast and fail forward.” Keep your shoulder pressed into it, pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and keep on trucking.

For me, it also helps to know that there are many variables that go into being a successful business. Sometimes, I can tweak my business plan and marketing approach, and people are just not buying my services right now (as much as they used to), for reasons bigger than me. So, then I focus on discovering my options with this new reality…


admin November 20, 2010 at 6:28 PM

Hey Marci..such great advice! It’s always good to remember that just because people aren’t buying your services “right now” it doesn’t mean your services suck or something… you just need to refine your offer and figure out what you can do to appeal to their “now”, not get discouraged and quit. :) Thanks for commenting hun!


Jess Webb November 24, 2010 at 4:35 PM

Hi Cori!

I just found you through a mention of you on Mars Dorian’s site and I just LOVE your blog and your branding! :)

This is an excellent article, too. In particular, this line stood out: “Failure is not a possibility, it’s a given. Learn to fail fast and fail forward.”

It’s sooo true. Failure will happen. There’s no way around it. The key is to take it in stride, learn from it, and accept it as part of the process to get to success. It’s a chance to learn. :)
Jess Webb recently posted..Is Your Photo Sabotaging Your Marketing SuccessMy Profile


admin November 26, 2010 at 11:54 PM

Hey Jess, thanks so much for dropping by! :) So glad you’re enjoying BGB. And yes, taking it in stride will save you tons of heartache and tears. Every experience in life is an opportunity to learn something new about yourself and the world, and to grow because of it. :)


Dr. George Suarez August 2, 2011 at 12:45 PM

I believe there are no FAILURES in life, just DELAYED SUCCESS.


admin September 14, 2011 at 1:23 PM

Ha.. GREAT motto! :D


Nick Armstrong October 2, 2012 at 1:13 PM

I’ve always been a big fan of failing as fast as possible.

Rapid failure, plus learning, plus someone who can act as a guide/coach/external reference (ie: Liz Lemon and Jack D from 30 Rock) is a perfect perpetual business model, if you can get it right!

If you get attached to any one plan, you’re totally hosed. Especially when the resources, team, or other components you were planning on having fall through!

Being able to bounce after falling, and to figure out what went wrong to avoid “next time”; these are totally critical skills when it comes to running your own biz!

Awesome info, great presentation, thanks!


admin October 2, 2012 at 3:56 PM

Thanks for dropping by Nick, glad you enjoyed the read. :) Definitely learning to be adaptable and roll with the punches is a skill that serves well in pretty much every area of life. lol


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