Today, business schools make entrepreneurship part of their curriculum; there are lessons in financing new ventures, projects that require students to execute a business plan, and charts that plot the milestones of a new company, usually on an upward curve.
No one, however, ever spends enough time teaching students about the downfalls of entrepreneurship.
In reality, entrepreneurship is far from a smooth ride. It’s filled with ups and downs, pros and cons, unpredictability, and difficult lessons. Starting a new venture requires long hours, relentlessness, and grit; and sometimes it takes many years of failure before becoming successful.
David McCourt, Chairman and founder of Granahan McCourt Capital, has founded or bought over 20 companies in nine countries. When asked how he would teach entrepreneurship to young people today, McCourt responded with this:
“Number one, you have to learn that your Plan B by definition might be better than your Plan A. That’s important because mathematically, you are going to fail. But by failing, you’ve reduced the odds of failure the second time around because you know what you did wrong.”
Interestingly, McCourt goes on to say that entrepreneurs need to be able to identify their strengths, rather than weaknesses, and work on improving them. He also says they need to be able to explain their vision, otherwise, they will hit a definite roadblock.
Toronto executive and founder of Array Marketing, John Fielding says accepting failure can be the most important lesson for an entrepreneur.
“My experiences building Array Marketing years ago have taught me an enormous amount about growing a business, including how to focus on one goal at a time, build successful teams and establish an organizational culture that transcends generations. One thing I’ve learned is that it is okay to admit failure; afterall, it’s the only way to learn and move forward with more knowledge than when you began.”
Toronto’s John Fielding also explains that it’s as easy to do something big as it is to do something small.
“Sometimes you have to start small to get where you want to be. It’s having that level of strategic thinking and applying it to the bigger picture.”
Mark Jen, co-founder of Common Networks concurs: building a business is a learning process.
“When we started Common Networks, we had theories on how to build next generation wireless networks that would be cost efficient, easy to scale, and fast to deploy. In practice, we had to eat a lot of humble pie and bang our heads against the wall, day after day, week after week. However, each time we had to overcome an obstacle, we learned something, and those learnings began to stack up over the days and weeks.”
Saying that entrepreneurship is full of uncertainty is an understatement. It involves risk and it involves failure. The thing about leaping into entrepreneurship is that it teaches you about yourself and molds you into the leader you were meant to be. Naturally, as you learn more about growing a business, you’ll learn more about how to overcome the obstacles and discover your identity in the process.