Failure Isn’t the End, It’s Only the Beginning
Businesses, coworking or otherwise, fold every week. Whether it was written into the business plan from the very beginning (and it often is), the inevitable change of a region and culture, or as simple and clean as a rent hike that’s unaffordable. It happens.
But that doesn’t have to be the end. Just because you’ve shuttered your doors doesn’t mean you can’t continue building the community you love. It doesn’t mean you can’t recommit to that community and start again, this time smarter and with more experience than last time. If you’re really in love with coworking and serving your community, you have the option to start over, even in a different city, even with a different business model.
Massive defeats can feel gut wrenching (I’ve had many myself), but magic happens when you take one more step (or sometimes a few more) in spite of the gut wrenching feelings. Yes, maybe you’ve disappointed a lot of people. Yes, maybe you’ve lost a lot of money. But remember that teenager you were 20, 30, or 40+ years ago, flipping burgers or selling popcorn? Yeah, that person. That was you! And look at how far you’ve come.
All entrepreneurs and people who do bold things fail, except in extremely rare occasions. It’s humbling. It’s scary. But after a few weeks or a few months it fades. What will you do in those weeks and months?
Seth Godin said something like, “If you want to love where you are in a year or ten years, do something today that you’ll be glad you did.” It’s true. When I quit my steady marketing job to join this thing called Impact Hub a few years back, I had no idea if it was a good move, but I knew that if I didn’t do it, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. The same thing happened when I left Impact Hub for San Francisco, then New York, then started Coworking Insights.
There were a hundred times Dustin, my former colleague at Impact Hub should have given up. There was the time we lost around sixty-thousand dollars on a temporary location due to to overstaffing and overspending, a near mutiny by half of the staff (ultimately resulting in losing a key staff member), massive pay cuts and a re-org, a year-long construction delay, and a co-founder hellbent on building his own reputation over helping the company succeed, Dustin muddled through it all. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and I know how many of you can relate to most of it. Dustin should have given up, but he didn’t.
I applaud him for that. At the time I left Impact Hub for personal and professional reasons, I’d had enough of our internal politics and thought the whole thing would shut down with out me. To my surprise it didn’t. Now, it wasn’t a pretty transition, not by a long shot, but Dustin pulled it off. These days I realize that that’s what being an entrepreneur is about most of the time: pulling it off, getting shit done when it’s impossible.
It’s been about three years since Impact Hub Salt Lake’s first round of investment and the handshake deal with the landlord for the current location. The business is recovering, it’s growing, and while it’s not perfect, it’s still there and I get the feeling it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Time will tell.
But even if it does fail, I know exactly what Dustin will be doing. Starting the next thing, whatever that is.
So no matter where you are in the lifecycle of your business, be forewarned, there will be some incredibly, insanely, ridiculously, tough times. There will be times when you feel like quitting and moving back in with your parents (or staying there if that’s where you currently reside). There will be times you feel like getting “a real job.” There will be times you feel like punching your co-founders and employees in their stupid faces.
My only advice is to stick it out. Don’t give up yet. Take a part time job if you need it, but keep at it. Failure isn’t the end, it’s actually just a new beginning. A beginning that has a lot more potential than you can see right now.