3 Important Business Lessons We’ve Learned Through Failure

Scaling / January 25, 2017 / Kristie

Failure is an inedible part of learning and growing. You can’t expect to do everything perfectly, especially not on the first try. But what you can do is learn from each mistake.

lessons learned from failure

Often times failure is looked upon as a catastrophe and something horrible that one should never experience. The reality is that failure is something we all face at some point or another and that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. The difference between success and meandering about is what you learn from your failures and how you move forward from each stumble.

If you view failure as something horrible, you won’t have the courage to move forward and you’ll be afraid of trying new things. But if you view your failures as learning experiences, you can leverage these as opportunities for growth.

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
– Denis Waitley

Daniel Pink, author of New York Times Best Seller– Drive, had a recent episode on his podcast about the importance of writing a failure resume.

In his 2 minute Pinkest, guest Tina Seelig, author of What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 and professor at Stanford University, explains the importance of documenting your biggest screw-ups and recording what you’ve learned from each of them.

Like most small businesses, we’ve had many failures since starting Marketcircle in 1999 and here is our top 3 list of failures we’ve learned from.

1. Not letting go of staff soon enough

Hanging onto staff that we know aren’t the right fit has been a lesson we’ve had to learn the hard way. Letting go of a team member can be difficult. You may like the person and get along with them in term of personality, but if they’re not the right fit for your business as a whole, you need to nip it in the bud.

Your team can make or break your business. When you have skilled employees that share your core values, are motivated, and balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you have a strong team that will help grow your business. But if you have team members who’s skills are not up to par, are unmotivated or don’t fit your core values, it can cause tension in your team, hold you back from achieving your goals, and start to foster a toxic work environment.

Sometimes team members that seem like a good fit eventually turn out to not be ideal for your team as a whole. They may be lacking in skills that the job now requires as your company evolved. They may become a negative drain on your team’s morale if they’re not living your core values or are not a team player. Whatever the reason, hanging onto staff members that aren’t a right fit can cause friction in the team, great team members to leave, and can slow down your business.

When it becomes evident that someone is not the right fit for your business, pull off the bandaid. Weed out the toxic team members and the ones that aren’t performing up to snuff. If you don’t, other people see that in the company and get demotivated.

2. Announcing news too early

Customers are often eager to learn what’s on the company roadmap, especially in the software industry. One thing we’ve learned the hard way it to not reveal plans too early. It can be a struggle to gauge how much information to share with customers, and what information to keep private until the time is right.

Announcing news too early was a mistake we learned when we publicly released our plans to build Daylite Cloud. The development of Daylite Cloud took longer than planned and by announcing our plans too early, it impacted customer expectations. It’s important to share future plans with customers so they’re aware of what’s coming down the pipes. But you also need to be cautious about sharing too much because plans and expectations can change.

From this experience we learned to manage our upcoming news more carefully. It’s a fine balance of being transparent with customers, while setting proper expectations and timelines. Plans can change and problems can arise that you didn’t expect. Managing customer expectations becomes increasingly difficult if you’re sharing every idea and potential plan. What we’ve learned is that we shouldn’t announce news until it’s a done deal – meaning we have a working build.

3. Not communicating enough

When you start out as a few people in a small business, communication flows naturally. When decisions are made, it’s easy to convey those to your team and know that everyone is on the same page.

As your company grows, keeping that same level of communication becomes increasingly difficult. Decisions that are made can be forgotten or not spread across all team members. You may assume that people know the direction of the company, when in reality, not everyone has been updated. You may have had a short conversation with a team member about something and they took that as an idea for the company, not a solid decision or confirmed plan.

We’ve made the mistake of assuming that as our company grows, that same level of communication was taking place. It wasn’t. As our company grew, we learned that we needed to work extra hard at communication ideas and decisions often.

We’ve learned that even though you’ve said something once, doesn’t mean everyone in the company “got it”. You may need to reframe things in different ways for your whole team to understand your vision. You may need to repeat yourself often to convey that message to everyone on your team and ensure they remember it. Documentation is another part of this. Documenting decisions made in a place where everyone has access helps to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Repetition is crucial in this case so that your company’s plans and goals are communicated across the entire company. Whether it’s your company vision, brand promise, core values, or future plans, you need to be repeating and repeating yourself to make sure your message is heard and understood. If people aren’t repeating what you’re saying, you’re not repeating yourself enough.


Failure is an important part of the path to success. Without struggles and challenges, you won’t grow. Instead of viewing failures as a catastrophe, view them as lessons you’ve learned. Leverage each failure as a stepping stone to greatness.

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