The true cost of business failure

| September 21, 2018

Hayley Birtle-Eades is a serial entrepreneur but with that moniker comes multiple failures. Failures that have cost her dearly; not only in money but relationships, self-confidence and reputation.

Her roller coaster business journey started in her late teens when she created the Jeans Bag. That business collapsed in a heap a couple of years down the track. Then there was Born Brands; widely successful until it wasn’t. Then Love Lockets that she boldly moved into the bricks and mortar space and branding out with collaborations. While this business is still and kicking, there have been times that she has held on by her finger nails.

Holistic success coach Nicole van Hattem said Hayley’s journey is no uncommon in the small business space. “Clever, creative people who see a gap in the market and go for it. They work hard, sacrificing so much to make a success of their business and when it fails, they are left counting the cost,” she said.

“Statistics talk about the financial losses experience but that is just one aspect of business failure. When a business doesn’t succeed, there is a ripple effect of consequences. The business owner suffers mentally and physically, the immediate family is impacted, the staff who lose their jobs, and their families.

“The true cost of business failure is far bigger than time, resources and money. The impact on the person can last for years. We are talking depression, physical health conditions, substance abuse and anxiety.”

Hayley agrees. “It is not just about the money when a business fails. You put so much effort into the business; you are the brand. It is inevitable you personally suffer when your business suffers,” she said.

“When I ‘ve had a business fail, I take it personally, because it is personal, my husband is affected, my kids are affected. My family’s faith in my next move is affected because they’re anticipating another failure. You second guess yourself, it causes martial issues, there is doubt and resentment.

“Then you start to question everything about yourself – am I a good mother, am I a good person? It is hard to scramble and stay motivated because you are enveloped by anxiety and depression.”

Amanda Kirk was part of a transport company that went bust. “It went into voluntary administration after the big company switched payments to 60 days end of month payments. Once we went down another 10 companies and owner operators went under as the liquidators stopped and took everything,” she said.

“There’s been a lot of suicides in the industry, lots of homes repossessed and marriage break ups. I have seen trusted insurance brokers and accountants take advantage and siphon off money. It is the little guy that suffers while the big boys have no repercussions.”

“Although the stress of running a business can take its toll, some major people are so relieved now because they have normal jobs with super and annual and sick leave.”

Nicole said we live in a society that worships successful entrepreneurs. “With the immediacy of social media, we watch these meteoric rises of the ‘overnight’ success and then feel unworthy. What we forget is what many people portray publicly is often a front, bravado, as they secretly battle with their demons,” she said.

“The pressure to succeed is intense so when we fail, there does not seem to be a lot of support to help people through that time. Many just tuck their tails between their legs and go get a job.

“We are not taught to reframe failure. It is mostly always portrayed as something bad. But if we can look for constructive ways to deal with it, we can be better mentally prepared for it.”

Hayley said it does take time to recover. “I am a natural survivalist.  I am prepared to do whatever it takes.  Moving forward is about being clear on the vision so everyone is on board – your family. It is not a good space to be in if you do not do this,” she said.

“After each failure, you work out who your friends and supporters are. It is hard when people look at you thinking you can do no wrong and you’re put on a pedestal.  You don’t ask for that, people just do it.

“The fall down is painful … then people scatter like cockroaches, they judge you. How do you get that back – you have to double down, clean up the mess and push forward. Having ownership over your wins and failures is what can motivate you to keep going. Remember to care for yourself through the failure so you can come back stronger than ever.”

Nicole said to be resilient as a business owner, to handle the failures and to rise again, takes not only courage and self-belief, but a support network of other business owners who have been there and done that. “Your support network helps you to see that failure is a normal part of business and nothing to hide,” she said.

“If you don’t have a network to tap into, then listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos and read books that help you to let go of any guilt around failing in business, educate you on how to identify the learnings from the lessons, gain the skills and knowledge you need to get back in the game or to keep going until you win.”