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The thought of failing stops many people in their tracks. After all, if you start something and it fails, what was the point in trying? According to Entrepreneur Editor-in-Chief Jason Feifer, failing is actually the first step toward success.
Thanks to his position in business and publishing, Jason is able to speak with many people running successful businesses of all sizes and tries to learn something new from each conversation. While most are inclined to talk only of their successes, Jason says it’s the mistakes that teach the lessons.
Some of the best business advice he ever received came from none other than Ryan Reynolds, a successful Hollywood actor who has also created multiple business revenue streams outside of acting.
“[Ryan] told me that to be good at something, you have to be willing to be bad, and it made me realize that too often we think that if we try something new and we are not immediately successful at it, then it is just not for us. We should give up,” Jason said.
Related: Why Ryan Reynolds Says “You Can’t Be Good At Something Unless You’re Willing To Be Bad”
“But the point that Ryan is making is that everyone is bad at first. Everybody. So the difference isn’t whether or not you are good at the beginning of something, but rather whether or not you are able to tolerate being bad long enough to get good.”
In addition to the willingness to fail, entrepreneurs must also be willing to take some risks, a necessary personality trait to build a successful business. One idea that can trip up even the most successful small business owner, Jason said, is getting caught up in the mentality that change equals loss.
“[When] something is changing in our lives or our business, the first thing we do is think about the things we are familiar and comfortable with that are no longer going to be as much of a mainstay, as reliable as they used to be, and that feels like loss,” Jason said.
Although that reaction is human, there are ways to mitigate that initial response and turn an unexpected change into a successful business pivot. Panic, at least at first, is a natural response, but what happens next can be a make-or-break scenario.
“We need to think, ‘Well, this has happened, so what am I gonna do about it?’ Look at what is available to you—the new normal—where you start to build a new foundation,” he said.
For many business owners and entrepreneurs, their products or services are an inseparable part of their identity, which, while understandable, is also one of the biggest barriers to adapting to new situations. Jason says managing change is easier when the business’s mission—and the owner’s identity—is not necessarily tied to one product or service.
“This is so natural, everyone does this. Are you identifying with the product of your work or the role that you occupy? Because if you are, then as soon as those things change (and they will), you don’t feel just a sense of change in your work. You feel a loss of identity. That’s very scary,” he said.
Instead, Jason recommends looking to the future and paying attention to how the business is growing (or stalling). This can help owners make changes before they absolutely must, and by instigating change themselves, they can make more solid business decisions and have more control over the business’s trajectory.
Jason explained when to initiate changes with an analogy he learned in one of his many conversations. “Imagine you’re driving down the street in a car, and the door falls off. Is that a problem? Yes. But can you still drive? You can. The car still goes. Now imagine you’re driving down the street, and then the engine falls off. Can you drive? No, the ride is over.
“So you have to understand what you are looking at when you’re looking at a problem. Are you looking at a door or are you looking at an engine? Because if it’s a door, then you can make small tweaks on the margins. But if you’re looking at a problem and it’s an engine, and in three to five years that engine is going to fall off the car, then you have to start now.”
More lessons Jason has learned over the years that could benefit your business include:
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand. Many experts would rather you ask questions and get a business decision correct than to guess and get it wrong.
- Trust between you and your customers is critical to building great reviews online. Being honest about your pricing and services, even if more expensive than your competitors, can help make you a trusted expert with consumers.
- Critical reviews can help you improve your business. For the most part, reviewers want to help you make a better product or point out issues you may not notice as an owner. Harness that feedback to strengthen your offerings and the customer experience.
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Jason, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.
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