You learn more from failure than success. The axiom rings true, but how much can you learn from other people’s startup failure stories?
That’s the question that the Launch Indiana team sought to answer when they planned Indiana’s first-ever Fail Fest. John Wechsler, Tony Monteleone, and the entire Launch Fishers team spent months hustling to gather Indiana’s best and brightest entrepreneurs for one day of sharing stories of failure and lessons learned.
We learned from notable founders like Scott Hill and Scott Jones on the risks they’ve taken, the missteps they’ve made, and the successes that have come from their unyielding perseverance. These were my biggest takeaways of the day.
Failure is Temporary…
“Never look at it as a failure, look at the situation as a learning lesson.” #FailFest14
— CareerDevelopmentIWU (@CareerIWU) November 19, 2014
One takeaway of the day was paramount to the rest, and that is that failure is temporary. We heard from entrepreneurs who battled depression and were on the brink of bankruptcy, yet they were able to overcome these challenges and build wildly successful businesses. While they all come from different backgrounds and play in different industries, their stories all had one common thread running through them: Perseverance.
One of my favorite examples of this principle was Tiffany Sauder, founder of Element Three. When the recession hit her business in 2009, she was in her 20’s, pregnant with her first child, and lost over $200k in under 90 days.
“I didn’t know you could lose money that fast,” Tiffany joked.
Despite these challenges and the nagging voice in the back of her head telling her that “no one would blame her” if she just gave up, Tiffany persevered. She kept her head down, worked even harder, and learned lessons from her shortcomings. Because of this stick-to-it-ness, Element Three has reached massive growth and now hosts an annual conference on inbound marketing here in Indianapolis. Tiffany is a shining example of what a great entrepreneur looks like and Indianapolis is proud to call her ours.
As encouraging as stories like this are, we have to remember that this isn’t the end of the story.
Success is Temporary, Too
“93% of inc 500 companies fail within 5 years. 3% are acquired. 4% survive.” @PerqMarketing is a survivor #FailFest14
— Tim Hickle (@timhickle) November 19, 2014
We also heard from several serial entrepreneurs who have seen success slip through their fingertips. In the startup world you hear about pivoting all the time, but a pivot is a response to failure. Many companies had to pivot in 2009 because of the recession, and we heard from multiple entrepreneurs who fit this bill. They started to grow, they started to have success, and they got complacent. The market changed around them and they were caught needing to adapt or die.
As hard as we hustle to reach success, it is important to remember that the market changes around us daily and complacency could lead to the death of our business.
You Are Only as Good as Your Mentors
“The best mentors are the ones that don’t answer your questions, but question your answers.” Well said @wechsler#FailFest14
— Jeff Ringgenberg (@jeffreyryanwho) November 19, 2014
Every entrepreneur who took the Fail Fest stage at some point mentioned mentors or advisors, and for good reason. Without a strong well of advisors and mentors who have “been there and done that,” it’s impossible to see the pitfalls you’re heading toward.
This is the single best way to facilitate personal growth in a meaningful way. As John Wechsler said in the Tweet above, “The best mentors are the ones that don’t answer your questions, but question your answers.” Whether you’re looking to grow your business or yourself, the most beneficial thing you can do is find mentors who fit that criteria and can push you and your ideas.
The Best Thing You Can Do Is Get Started
No matter what happens to you, they can’t eat you. David Becker. #FailFest14
— Erika Petrelli (@ErikaPetrelli1) November 19, 2014
As smart as we think we are, we’re still pretty basic creatures. We have a pretty irrational fear of failure given its low cost, and that’s the single biggest deterrent that most people have to acting on their ideas.
Stop it. Don’t think. Nike, Just Do It.
Patience isn’t a Virtue, It’s a Necessity
“Nothing good comes fast. You gotta work for it.” – David Becker #failfest14
— Tony Monteleone (@StartupTony) November 19, 2014
Conferences like this can get pretty rah-rah, but Fail Fest didn’t fall victim to this sentiment. At the end of the day, the only thing you can really do for success is keep your heads down and keep pushing. Most of the success stories we heard took at least a decade to build their companies into what they are today, and the underlying message there is true. If you want to build something great, it won’t happen overnight. You’ll have to try, fail, adapt, rinse and repeat.
Fail Fest may be a first year event, but it was wildly successful in my opinion. After seeing a great turnout and hosting a great lineup, I can’t wait for #FailFest15. More importantly, I can’t wait to see what the Launch Indiana team is up to next! If you want to keep up with the Launch Indiana team, keep your eyes on the Techpoint blog and the Launch Indiana site!