How to Cope With Business Failures?

In case of business failures, rarely any serious reflection is given to the people involved and how they are coping with the disappointments

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By S. Parthasarathy


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The dark side of entrepreneurship is seldom spoken about nor is sufficient emphasis given on how to deal with unexpected and adverse outcomes. We often come across facts like only 10 per cent of the funded ventures become successful, whereas the majority of them are on the dark side. When the cause for the failure of a business is discussed, analysis is done more in terms of – "Why it failed' or "What we can learn from it'. To justify those, different experiments are done using spreadsheets, financial statements, etc. On the other hand, rarely any serious reflection is given to the people involved and how they are coping with the disappointments.

The case of Angad Paul, son of British businessman and steel tycoon Swaraj Paul, is a valid example. The 45-year-old CEO of Caparo Group allegedly jumped to his death from eight stories in November 2015. Caparo was facing a crisis as the steel prices collapsed, forcing 16 of its companies to be put into administration, a process that is an alternative to liquidation. Hence, it is assumed that he committed suicide as he was unable to cope with the business failure. For entrepreneurs, failures are more common than successes. Reasoning those can only happen after they have learned to cope with it.

What is the person thinking?
It requires courage, conviction, perseverance, passion and self-belief to get into entrepreneurship. At times, it can be a lonely journey. When failure starts mounting, it becomes unsettling and begins to erode the confidence of the entrepreneur. He starts having thoughts like – maybe something is wrong with me or maybe I am not good enough or what will others think of me etc. Failure can invoke intense feelings, such as frustration, depression, irritation, stress, sadness, discouragement, helplessness, anger, jealousy, etc. At such moments, self-awareness is the key to coping with turmoil. Connecting with the inner-self by becoming aware of such emotions, accepting those without being judgemental and being aware of their cause enables him to address the issues. When a person is going through strong emotional upheaval, it impacts the way he responds to others. When the chips are down, people respond differently - they get into a cocoon, do not feel like meeting friends, avoid socializing, become irritable, pass sarcastic remarks and put others down.

Coping Strategies
At such situations, it is imperative that the entrepreneur develops coping strategies. Here are some suggestions.
Just Talk: Talk to someone who is nonjudgemental and empathetic, someone with whom you are comfortable sharing your fears and dreams. This could be a counselor, a mentor, a coach or a trusted friend.

Self-Awareness: Practise self-awareness exercises like meditation or Yoga or breathing exercises, which will eventually calm you down.

Physical Activity: Reduce stress by practising physical activities such as exercising, going for a walk, dancing and outdoor games.

Taking Ownership: Take responsibility for your choices, thoughts and actions.

Get Spiritual: A trip to a church, mosque, temple or a spiritual master can be a liberating experience.

Reframe Thoughts: When you are feeling down, catch those thoughts and reframe them.

S. Parthasarathy

Head - Alumni Relations, IIM (Bangalore) & Author

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