Rules and lessons
Some of you may recognize yourselves in the following stories and lessons below.
Becoming a better version of yourself
It's not easy to be the foundation of a new industry, to invent a new product or service and to overcome, a few years later, the competition that has been heavily inspired by you to imitate you.
One of the pioneers and one of the most outstanding personalities in the automotive world, Henry Ford, had to face failure before he succeeded. His first models, too expensive for the quality on offer, did not please the consumers. He persevered by improving the design, making the fastest cars available at that time and offering cars whose value for money eventually convinced the consumers.
Time to give yourself a real vision
How did Delta Airlines go from bankruptcy in 2005 to the world's second largest flight fleet fifteen years later? By giving themselves the time and the means to focus on strategic airports: Atlanta, JFK and La Guardia in New York and Heathrow, so as to become unavoidable. Other airlines preferred to react (too) quickly and were bought or merged.
Don't bend for the wrong reasons
The late founder of The Body Shop, Anita Roddick, had to deal with two neighboring funeral parlors initially objecting to the name. But she knew how to defend herself, to face them as a female entrepreneur, and to create, in fifteen years’ time, more than 700 stores around the world. Her most valuable lesson: Don't let minor setbacks throw you off course.
Refocus on your true qualities…
Frederick W. Smith, founder of FedEx. Corp, experienced a resounding failure when, after revolutionizing overnight mail delivery in the 1970s, he introduced an electronic delivery service, Zapmail, in 1984, to compete with fax machines. 2 years and 320mio$ later, Zapmail was shut down. Fortunately for the employees of Zapmail, Fred Smith refocused on his core delivery business and they were redeployed within FedEx.
…but also dare to diversify as much as your audience
However, it is sometimes necessary to dare to venture into other forms of business than your original core business. The Lego company has avoided bankruptcy by drastically reducing its production lines of the small well-known blocks, to give a second virtual life to its assembled figurines, through animation cinema, theme parks, video games and board games.
Reinventing one’s original success
On the Internet, impressive comeback stories abound. The site businessinsider.com offers several, including that of Polaroid, the company which has been able to reinvent itself, after undergoing digitalization, into a cool tech toy, offering a digital upgrade of its iconic OneStep camera that snaps digital photos, then uses a tiny printer to spit out a physical copy.
Some basic rules
In the sometimes long road to success, which is fraught with pitfalls, it may be wise, however, right from the start of one’s entrepreneurship, to take into account some important rules: first, prepare for failure. A good analysis of the risks and their potential impact already allows to exclude some, to make the most sensible decisions, or not to collapse when adversity strikes you. You must also keep the balance between your self-confidence, abilities, and stubbornness right at all costs, and in comparison to others. As such, it is important not to make excuses and to dare to get out of your comfort zone. Across the world, corporate cultures can vary greatly from one continent to another. The perception of failure and its social consequences are not perceived in the same way around the world.
The most important thing is to know how to question yourself to go towards your true strength. Sometimes you will have to separate yourself from those with whom you are emotionally connected, but who you know are a hindrance to your path towards success. On the other hand, you also have to dare to ask for help. To call for a neutral, external opinion. Many entrepreneurs hesitate because of their egos or for fear of being judged as ignorant to speak to the right people in order to get back on track.
It's a shame, because today more than ever, an increasing number of experienced experts is making their experience and know-how available and offer the time it takes to get a failing company back on track. We know these experts, these talented men and women. We trust them and they trust us. Having the right person in the right place at the right time can be vital to a company's continuous success.