Just What is Business Failure?

At one time or another, all of us experience failure. If you run a business, you could face losing it because of the business failing.

Naturally, we don’t like failure; it doesn’t feel good.

But even though we all fail repeatedly…  

As children, we must learn how to walk. We keep falling until we know how to walk; we fail until we succeed.

The same happens when we learn to read, ride a bike, or swim. Essentially, we fail until we learn the task at hand.

However, as kids, we don’t worry about failing.

We simply keep trying until we no longer make mistakes or fail. Failing allows us to accumulate data about actions that don’t work and those that do work.  

But once we’re adults, it’s not that simple anymore.

Now, we fret about making mistakes and messing up, and we worry about failing.

Because our culture values winning above all. We consider failing as something terrible, something to be avoided at all costs.

Failure may leave us feeling embarrassed, anxious, ashamed, sad, angry, and not good enough.

But is failure truly bad, or is it our attitude about failure that turns it into a negative?

What most of us call failure could be a step toward succeeding, learning, and moving closer to perfecting a skill; it may be a necessary step to achieving success.  

Let’s take a closer look …

Our example will be a Nurse Practitioner who has difficulty in her practice. She’s not seeing enough patients to pay the bills, let alone make a profit. Consequently, she is facing some tough decisions.

Now, have you ever stood on the edge of a cliff, heart pounding, palms sweating, staring at the abyss below?

That’s what it feels like when your practice faces closure, when you’re about to lose your business.

It’s terrifying, embarrassing, and anxiety-producing.

Our NP, after giving it her best and giving it a lot of thought, is considering quitting, closing her practice, and going back to work.

To her credit, she has the guts to acknowledge the reality before her and is ready to deal with it.

While some business owners may ignore the signs, hoping that things will get better (they rarely do), she’s not one of them.

Now, chances are most would look at closing the practice and going back to work as a failure of the business and the NP.

But things are not always as simple as they seem.  

While there are many things business owners can control, there are also variables outside their control.

Variables within your control

Here are some examples of variables that are under the control of the business owner, including:

  • Adequate research before starting a practice
  • A well-thought-out service offering
  • Choosing a good practice location
  • Adequate financing
  • Hiring the best staff
  • Marketing the practice
  • Getting business education

Variables outside your control

Inherently, running a business comes with risks.

Every business (and practice) is affected by numerous variables, many of which are difficult to control, if not entirely outside the business owner’s control.

Some external variables include:

  • Changing market dynamics
  • Regulatory changes
  • New healthcare technologies
  • Shifting consumer preferences
  • Broader economic trends affecting the business

Business and life rarely follow along a straight line. Sometimes, we’re taken down a side road, whether we want it or not.

So here are some personal factors largely outside the control of the business owner:

  • Shift in financial situation
  • New family obligations
  • Personal illness
  • Taking care of a loved one
  • Relocation of the family
  • And more…

Back to our NP…

While the NP in our example is ready to throw in the towel, we don’t know the reasons why.

  1. She may be closing her practice for personal reasons, such as illness or a change in family obligations.
  2. Or she may be forced to close due to external factors, such as losing insurance contracts, a favorable lease, or new rules that affect her ability to practice how she wants to.
  3. Or she may be forced to close the practice because she seemingly didn’t market her practice, didn’t pay close attention to billing, and took on too much debt.

The first two examples are primarily outside her control. So…

  • Is her practice failing because she decides to close her business to take care of herself or her family? Not in my book.
  • Is she failing because she decides to close her practice after losing a favorable lease that can’t be easily replaced in the current market environment? Again, not in my book.

However, did she fail since the actions in example number three were within her control… marketing, billing, and debt?  

Well, let’s take a look:

  • She may have marketed her practice, but it didn’t work because she chose the wrong marketing channels.  
  • She may have paid attention to her billing. Even though she did her due diligence, she hired two bad companies in a row, resulting in a significant loss of revenue.
  • Hindsight is 20/20, and yes, looking back, she took on too much debt that was supported by her initial projections.  

So, has she failed? She is closing her practice, so yes, the business has failed. However, she has not.

You could say she failed if she had not tried to market her practice or done her due diligence when hiring the billing companies.  

Here Is The Lesson …

It’s possible to do things right but still end up “failing.”

“Failure” isn’t pleasant, but often, it’s part of the journey towards success. Embrace it as an opportunity to grow and learn rather than viewing it as having failed personally.

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling you failed, not if you did the right things but they didn’t work out.

After thousands of unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison famously said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

So, don’t fear failure or let it deter you from pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams.

Remember that every setback can potentially set you up for a comeback!

Let us know what you think; share your experience by leaving a comment below!

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  1. Thank you for sharing the story and giving us a reality check especially if we are bright eyes with bushy tails ready to put up our shingles. I honestly never entertained the idea of failing until now. I figured if I work as hard as I'm working now, the universe will be good to me. … with a grateful heart and eyes now opened wide- thank you

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