When I started my job at AEDC, my husband and I were also struggling to run a business. It was a community market that we loved, but we were never able to make financially viable. There were a number of reasons it didn't succeed, including some things that could be attributed to bad decision making on our part and others to bad luck. It was a very, very expensive education that resulted in a perspective that is unusual for most small business advocates.

When our business failed, my first instinct was to crawl into a hole and hide. But early on in the process, I decided to lean into it. I thought that if I just talked about the worst thing that had happened in a public way, then it would give me power over the narrative and allow me to face the steps ahead. It was a bonus that, in a line of work where we're supporting people who are starting their own business, being able to talk about my experience can provide a perspective that can be valuable to new business owners.

While it’s fascinating to hear a success story or explanation of how a business grew, I’m drawn to the stories of failure and resilience. This inspired an idea for a recent panel discussion we hosted for regional emerging leaders—How I Broke This. A play on the popular podcast, How I Built This, we asked local entrepreneurs and leaders to share their moments of failure and how that shaped them. Watch the discussion here.

It was such a powerful conversation, and I encourage you to watch the replay! Here were some of the highlights I took away:

  • Pick the right people. The mentors, team members, and employees you surround yourself with will either make or break you.
  • Imagine the possibilities. Take the time to see the bigger picture and plan for both the best and worst-case scenarios. (In practical terms—create a business plan!)
  • Check your pride. Your ego can easily become your biggest blinder, and keep you from asking for help when you need it. 
  • Show up and be consistent. Failure is bound to happen, but if you’re resilient, so will success.

As we head into another year filled with unknowns and ongoing challenges, I invite you to consider one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Rogers— “If it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.” Don’t shy away from talking about your mess-ups and challenges. It’s likely to be the first step towards a solution. 

-- Susan