‘If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’ is the adage that encapsulates the spark that flares entrepreneurs’ drive to rise from the ashes of their broken businesses and to start all over again, sometimes amassing fortunes and building empires in the process.
According to The Department for Business Innovation & Skills, there were 4.9 million businesses in the UK at the start of 2013. The Times 100 states that 1 in 3 businesses fail in their first three years! But before you choke on that scone, look at that half-filled cup of tea and focus on the two thirds of these businesses that survive.
You may think that for many entrepreneurs the word ‘failure’ doesn’t come into their vocabulary but you would be wrong. There are many good business men and women who have had tasted failure on their way to becoming highly successful. In the UK, you would be surprised to know that some of our most famous and successful business leaders have failed in some shape or form in their careers.
We take a look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the UK:
Peter Jones, known primarily for his role in Dragons Den was highly successful in his youth but his company hit troubles and he had to move back in with his parents after he was left homeless and with very little money. Peter used this experience to his advantage, showing great courage and determination to learn from his mistakes and start again. Startups.co.uk entitled him ‘The Maverick Angel’ in an article in which he expressed disappointment with enterprise culture: ‘If you fail three times in the States, they’ll assume your fourth business will be a success. Here, we won’t even give you a job.’ All the more worthy of praise then, considering he is now a tycoon worth £475 million in 2013, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2013.
Simon Cowell suffered similar defeat in the music industry with his Fanfare Records label, which folded in 1989. ‘Losing everything is probably the greatest lesson you ever learn’, he commented. From then on, he picked himself up started again working as consultant for BMG, from here he climbed up the corporate ladder, produced Pop Idol, American Idol, SYCOtv and is now worth a whopping £258 million.
Philip Green, a highly successful businessman in the retails sector was once forced to resign in 1992 as chairman of Amber Day, a discount retailer, when profits didn't meet forecasts. The experience didn’t get him down and instead his next business endeavours included backing up his wife in bids for M&S and Arcadia Group amongst others, the latter of which proved very successful. He has gone from strength to strength over the years and now his net worth is an astonishing £3.88 billion according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2013.
Richard Branson is one of the best known entrepreneurs in the UK, best known for the Virgin brand, he also owns a few space ships and his own island! He has had a hand in thousands of companies over the years so it is inevitable that failure will strike along the way. Branson once said, “My mother drummed into me from an early age that I should not spend much time regretting the past. I try to bring that discipline to my business career. Over the years, my team and I have not let mistakes, failures or mishaps get us down. Instead, even when a venture has failed, we try to look for opportunities, to see whether we can capitalize on another gap in the market.” One of Branson’s most famous failures was his foray into the soft drinks market with Virgin Coke. At the time he stated, "That business taught me not to underestimate the power of the world's leading soft drink makers. I'll never again make the mistake of thinking that all large, dominant companies are sleepy!" It just goes to show that even the most successful of people have experienced failure.
J. K. Rowling
We all know J. K. Rowling as being the mastermind behind the Harry Potter Novels which have earned her millions but life wasn’t always so rosy for her. Before her success she was going through a very bad patch consisting of divorce, depression, debt and to top all that was looking after her child as a single parent. This isn’t so much a story of failure but of determination of hard work. She fought everything that was being thrown at her to appear on the other side with her pride in tact and one of the most successful novels of all time. It just goes to show what you can achieve with a bit of hard graft and the mental strength to keep going.
Embrace failure as a positive
The world as we know it is a product of human trial and error. We should take strength from the successes of our national entrepreneurs, but on the other hand, we also need to acknowledge the fact that had they not hit the bottom at one point or another, they probably would not have striven for such greatness. After all, a kick in the rear is still a leap forward, as they say!