Many of us have heard this phrase time and time again but particularly in the UK failure carries very negative connotations, seen as something to be feared, unlike the US where failure is readily viewed as a badge of honour, something to be embraced and learnt from.
When we fail at something, it can often be very discouraging. However, failing is a fact of life and should be viewed as a temporary setback rather than grounds for quitting.
Bloomberg reports that 73 of the world’s first 100 billionaires are self-made. They were not born successful; rather, they are products of perseverance through failure. We take a look at the failure to success stories of some of today’s top entrepreneurs below:
Case Study: J K Rowling
The award winning author JK Rowling was once, in her words:
‘as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless’
Unable to get a job, Rowling relied on state benefits and struggled every month to pay her rent and provide for her family. In 1995 Rowling finished her first Harry Potter novel but it was not an instant success. Her manuscript was rejected from 12 different publishing houses before she got lucky on her 13th attempt when Bloomsbury agreed to publish the novel but advised her to find a day job as they estimated it would only make her ‘a few thousand pounds’.
Of course, this was not the case. The seven books in the Harry Potter series have sold over 400 million copies worldwide and JK Rowling is now considered one of the UK’s richest women worth an estimated £560million.
Case Study: Richard Branson
Richard Branson, often referred as the “rebel billionaire”, is known for his bold business ventures. Branson’s first company, Virgin Mail Order, a mail order music company proved very popular with customers but struggled to make a profit as the prices were too low. To further add to his woes Branson was also fined £60,000 for pretending to buy records for export to evade paying UK customs.
Learning from the experience Branson realised that to succeed he had to think outside the “business as usual” norms. Using this model Branson went on to launch dozens of successful ventures including Virgin Megastores, Virgin Airlines, Virgin Trains, Virgin Digital and Virgin Media. Branson estimated worth today is £4.1billion.
Case Study: Sir James Dyson
Sir James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner, may now one of the richest people in the UK with a net-worth of over £5billion, but his first venture, the ‘Ball barrow’ was far from successful. The product cost more to make than it made in profit and Dyson also lost the patent for the product. Left almost penniless from the experience Dyson moved on from this failure and focused his energies on inventing a bagless vacuum cleaner.
It took over three years and an astounding 5,127 prototypes before he hit gold with the winning Dyson Dual Cyclone but even when he had perfected the perfect product it took a further five years before it became a markable product and the fastest-selling vacuum cleaner ever made in the UK.
It is not just famous individuals such as those listed above, many startup companies and entrepreneurs also have great failure to success stories.
Shaun Pulfrey, creator of the Tangle Teezer, took his idea to BBC2’s Dragon’s Den in 2007 and asked for £80,000 funding for a 15% share in his business but was rejected by the dragons who branded his venture “hair brained”. Undeterred Pulfrey went on to self-finance his venture using all his life savings, and even remortgaged his Brixton flat. His gamble paid off, the company is now valued at £65million and has a projected turnover of £34million for this year.
Another victim of the Dragons was Rob Law, inventor of Trunki, the original ride on suitcase for children. It took Law over nine years to get his product in the market place and had his idea branded as “worthless” when he appeared on Dragon’s Den in 2008. Securing the interest of John Lewis changed Law’s fortunes and he now enjoys a turnover of £7million a year and has further developed his brand to include other travel accessories aimed at children.
Don't be discouraged....
The individuals listed have been able to turn their failure into success stories because they were committed, hard working, passionate, and able to channel their frustration from failure into a positive outcome. Instead of being discouraged, take negative experiences as a learning opportunity. You can learn from criticism or mistakes to reach the goals you have. Failure should never stop you from following your dreams. You may not be successful on your first attempt but don’t be afraid to try, try again….
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