One thing that’s absolutely certain about life is that there are going to be innumerable setbacks along the way. It comes with the territory. Once you accept that fact and are prepared to deal with it, you are setting yourself up for success. The ability to bounce back is one of the most important character traits any entrepreneur can possess. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is essential.
Early in my career, my entire business was shut down. Here’s what happened, a story I first unabashedly shared in my book “The Dream.” For my first online advertising enterprise, which I’d started at the age of 16, I’d bought software from an individual for $30,000 outright and was paying him $10,000 a month to keep the technology side operational.
But when he realized what a huge success I was making of the business, he demanded a one-third share. Naturally, I refused. But unfortunately, he was able to close us down because the account at the company where our servers were located was still in his name and he had full username/password access! In fact, he actually owed them an additional $100,000.
Solution? I proposed paying off the debt and taking over the account. Which we did. But that wasn’t enough. We had to find someone new — and immediately — who was technically knowledgeable and had the ability to run the software for us. We scrambled like crazy. In the end, we were offline for an entire week, which to us — and certainly our customers — felt like an eternity.
It also almost put me under. It was almost the end of a business that I later sold for a considerable sum. We quickly found our new CTO. We bounced back, and we made it good for our customers by giving them credit and free advertising. I gave our publishers a slightly higher percentage so they were happy, too.
I went out of my way to apologize personally and assure them that it would never happen again. I did everything I could to make amends and I didn’t lose a single customer. But it could have been disastrous -- especially if it happened in this new social-media era.
I didn’t stop to wallow in self-pity. I didn’t wring my hands. I acknowledged the mistake and moved beyond it. And I vowed to myself there and then that I would learn from this valuable lesson.
Of course, there have been many more setbacks since then, but that’s only to be expected when you’re building rapid-growth businesses. You just have to expect the unexpected. Keep the faith and believe in yourself. Be resilient. Be strong. Regard each obstacle as another opportunity along the road to success. No problems, no business.
Remember when you were a toddler. When you were first trying to walk, how many times did you fall, only to pull yourself up and go for it again and again? When you were a little older and learning how to ride a bike, it was just the same. You fell down; you got back up without thinking about it, before fear had a chance to set in.
As an adult, as an entrepreneur, you have to display that same tenacity. Everyone learns to walk and ride a bike, but some people, as they go through life, seem to find it harder to get back up after a fall. The successful entrepreneur doesn’t stop to think twice. He’s fearless. He doesn’t lose focus. He keeps his eye on the main prize. He stumbles. He falls. And as the lyrics of the Frank Sinatra song put it, “You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.”
That’s the secret and price of success.
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