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  • Conrad Burger

Embracing your losses

There are some things in this world that are so big, you can never expect to let go of it. Except for a failed business. That we hear nothing of ever again.


We live in a highlight reel, where everyone shares their wins, their amazing holidays, beautiful houses, cars and private jets, but what we dont see enough off is losses. The business that failed, that had to close it’s doors and employees that are no longer. I am not saying you should harp on and constantly focus on your losses, but I think we should often discuss them more often, look into our losses more in detail and learn from them.


When a business fails, we close the doors, pay the outstanding fees and never think of that business again. I was exactly the same, I have been lucky enough to have successful businesses which I have sold and moved on from or still run, however I have had multiple businesses that have failed, this may have been to bad management on my behalf, selling the wrong product to the market, having bad business partners or sometime its just bad luck. I used to be the same and hiding my losses until I realised if I don’t learn from these failures they are truly big L’s, but if I can learn from them I couldn’t quiet turn them into victories but perhaps a draw.


The question I sat with is why don’t I want to discuss my failures with my peers, friends and people who’s opinion I value? The answer is easy, EGO! I was letting my ego get in the way. If I didn’t discuss my failures they never happened, but in hindsight I lost so much more Izafrom not discussing these events with people and more importantly not learning from them. By letting my Ego get in the way I didn’t discuss the mistakes I made and inevitably made them again in new businesses. These mistakes were costing, proper accounting systems, people management and the ability to hire correctly.


I started sitting down and analysing all of my failures and started asking the following questions:


- Why did the business fail, what was the one key factor that made it fail?

- What could I as the captain of the ship have done differently to change the outcome?

- What did I wish I knew prior to starting the business?

- With the knowledge I have now, what would I do differently tomorrow if I were to start again?



These questions are not only applicable to business, these questions can be asked about a relationship, friendship, holiday planning anything, but often when things go wrong we as humans are so scared of admitting we are wrong that we just avoid the questions, close the door and move on. I can tell you from experience having done this for many years, this leads to so many missed opportunities for growth and making the same mistakes over and over again.


My next question I had to answer once I overcame my ego, was why am I not answering these questions? This is easy, because it hurts, I don’t want to admit it was me who made the mistakes, that I am the one that is to blame for the L. Extreme Ownership is a book written by Jocko Willink, who is a former navy seal. In this incredible book he writes that everything that has ever happened in your life, is your fault, good or bad. If your forklift driver crashes the forklift into the wall, it is not his fault, but you as the owner, the buck stops with you. If you have provided the driver with enough training this shouldn’t have happened or perhaps the driver was over worked. The answer to this often is what if he is useless and cant be trained, then the ownership sits with you to part ways with the employee. Often a big error from an employee or red flags in a relationship is not the first time this happens but blaming the other party is easier. By taking complete ownership you are in control and the power lies with you, as scary as this proposal is, having done this for the last couple of years I can tell you its freeing. It is not a one time fixes all, I still find myself easily blaming others, but constantly working at getting better on taking ownership.


Richard Branson is famous for discussing his failures such as Virgin Cola, Virgin Brides and Virgin pulse just to name a few. Branson however often discusses what he learnt from these failures, fun he had and one big success is finding great staff that could work in other companies. Did you know Twitter almost didn’t exist? Twitter was originally called Odeo and funded as a podcasting platform. The aim was to take on Podcasts from Apple as the premium platform to consume podcasts, however they didn’t make a big impact against Apple and the company admitted failure but with 14 full-time employees the idea of Twitter was pitched and the company pivoted to twitter. However it is clear that they learnt from their failure at Odeo and used the the developer team and what they have learnt to create Twitter as we know if today.


We live in a world where disruption is key and disrupting your opposition or waiting for the new tech to come along and disrupt our own business. Covid did this to a lot of our business, one of my businesses provides office furniture and Covid make me ask a lot of questions and what will the office of the future look like if any and will they still have the requirement for furniture? I constantly analyse these questions and not only waiting for the outside world to disrupt our industry, but looking how we can disrupt our own industry and business.


One of the prime examples of disrupting your own business is the Walt Disney group. The CEO at the time, Robert Iger, wanted to create Disney+, Disney’s own streaming service. This would mean he would lose millions of dollars in revenue from licensing deals with other channels to use the Disney content solely on their own streaming platform. He received big pushback from the board as it would severely hurt their revenue model. Iger was convinced it was the right move and after much convincing moved ahead. He said he was not waiting for someone to disrupt their model he would rather disrupt his own business. It took him less than a year to build Disney+ to a bigger revenue generator than their licensing deals.


Imagine the self awareness and guts to take on a board from a multi billion dollar company. Iger was clearly not afraid of loss, and has learnt much from his previous losses. Don’t wait for an external factor to disrupt your business, you be the disrupter, and if fear drives you, just make sure you start to love losing. Not just losing but learning from your losses!


Happy losing!


Embracing your losses!

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