Three years ago I opened my first business. A Christian Bookstore. As a reader and a young man of faith it was my dream to own one since I was a teenager. But while the 90’s were the golden era for Christian retailing, it’s not a stretch to say the twenty-teens are akin to the Dark Ages for bookstores in general, and especially for Christian ones.
Still, when the opportunity presented itself, I found two guys willing to give me some money then cannonballed in. I thought it was going to be all glamour and sunshine. Instead it was sleepless nights and stomach ulcers.
We opened the doors with quite the splash. It seemed everyone in the community knew about my venture. And the whispers and murmurs of failure started early too. There were no shortage of people who thought I was crazy for opening a bookstore in 2015.
And they were right. But I live by the philosophy that it’s better to try and fail than to not try at all. At the very least I could check “own a Christian bookstore” off my bucket list.
So here I am almost three years later with “store closing” signs hanging from the rafters.
An experience like this can be humiliating. Failing so publicly. Knowing the naysayers were right. Wishing you could have proved them wrong. Slaving for thirty six months building a passion that, in the end, crashed and burned.
Yet in spite of it all I remain positive and optimistic about the future. If you or someone you know has or is experiencing a failed business, here are five tips to keep you positive and put you back on the road to success. Applying these principles worked for me. They might work for you ask well.
1: It’s nobody’s life but yours
Don’t listen to the naysayers and stop trying to impress people. I have a picture hanging in my home that reads: “This is your life, do what you love, and do it often.” Don’t let the opinions of others make you feel like a failure. The only difference between failure and success is how you choose to view your situation.
2: It’s an opportunity for a new direction
Failure is a concept that doesn’t really need to exist. It’s one that we create for ourselves and impose upon others. But if you change your thinking, you can see what people call “failure” is simply opportunity. Sure, what you strived for may have crumbled, but now you have a blank canvas in front of you. Paint away!
3: It’s not the end of the world
Many small business owners depend on their business to support their family. I’m no different. I have a wife, two daughters under the age of four, credit card debt and a mortgage. But I made the decision not to see my failed business as the end of the world. The reality is I could get a job flipping burgers or delivering pizza to make up for the lost income. It may sting the pride a bit, but it’s a lot less stressful. I’m not saying you have to settle for flipping burgers (I didn’t!), but I am saying having a failed business is not the end of the world.
4: Take inventory of your experience
The best part of owning a business – and a failed one at that – are the lessons learned along the way. Looking back over the past three years I see my mistakes. I’ve taken inventory of the things I did right and the things I wish I had done differently. So when I open my next business, I’ll already be far more equipped for success than I was when I opened my first one.
5: Control the narrative to keep it positive
If your business is failing, don’t leak it. Announce it. If the failure of the business is leaked, you lose control of the narrative. But if you announce it, you are in control, not your naysayers. When I announced the closing of my bookstore, the heralding narrative I proclaimed was, “It’s been an adventure!” My followers appreciated my positive outlook at the circumstances and it minimized any negative murmurs from the naysayers.
The bottom line is this: if you’re experiencing a failed business (or a failed anything, really), don’t let it get you down. I understand first hand the emotional heartache that comes with failing at business. But remember, a failed business means a blank canvas. You’ve got a future waiting to be painted, and now you are more equipped than you were when you started the last one.