Keep It Coming

Step 1: Start a business. Step 2: Fail. Step 3: Start a business. Repeat as necessary.

On his first try, Edmund Hillary failed at climbing Mount Everest. But he lived to share his story with an enthusiastic audience in England, shouting, "Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I'll beat you the next time, because you've grown all you are going to grow, but I'm still growing!" Hillary's boast was a bit off: His second attempt was a failure as well. But he persisted, and on May 29, 1953, Hillary and his porter, Tenzing Norgay, were the first humans to climb the world's tallest mountain. Or at least the first to live to tell the tale. If Hillary, now 82, had given up after his first try, he might still be an anonymous beekeeper living in New Zealand.


"We went from the New Economy to the New Reality before anybody had a chance to enjoy it."

Running a business is a little like climbing Mount Everest: There's a great chance you're going to fail. The most current figures from the SBA show that 550,000 businesses closed in 2000. And an SBA study shows that only 39.5 percent of companies make it past their sixth year. And it's getting tougher-especially to find funding. "We went from the New Economy to the New Reality before anybody had a chance to enjoy it," says Emory Winship, managing director for Conversus Group LLC, a New York City consulting firm that assesses and turns around venture-backed start-ups that are in trouble. "Entrepreneurs went from millionaires on paper to paupers."

So if you've ever attempted a business before and failed, you have nothing to be ashamed of.

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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the April 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Keep It Coming.

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