How Valuable Is Failing?

Forrest Gump holding running shoe

I don’t want to be a failure.  No one wants to be a failure.  “How can there be any value in it?” one might say.  I’d like to share a story.

Many years back, I contracted with a commercial company to maintain a dozen or so apartment buildings.  The scope of work entailed repairing, installing, and basically keeping these apartments in good working order.  This commercial company cut a check to my business once a week, on time, every time.  Photo:

I thought, great.  What a good thing I have going!  As with commercial contracts, the company that hires you usually will only cut a check every 30 to 90 days.  I made sure to insist a sweet payday weekly, because my company would be giving up a lot to work for their company.  I would have to let a large portion of our residential customers go.

I didn’t want to do this at first; however, guaranteed money from the larger apartment guys made the decision easier.  They paid my guys almost double what we were making on the smaller, residential jobs.

We contracted with this management company and everything was excellent for two years straight.  We installed tub back splashes in most of the apartment units, repaired kitchen cabinet doors, painted, and basically kept an eye on all systems in the apartments —  the electrical, plumbing, and any HVAC issues.

I got a call one day to meet with the lead supervisor of the company.  He informed me that they were in legal issues with others and they would no longer be needing my company’s services.  At the end of the contract, that’s it.

We were in effect terminated because the funds just weren’t there to pay us.  A large number of companies go through this.

Consequently, with the added monies flowing into my company during the boom,  I invested into newer vehicles, tools, extras at home, and any other things that peaked my interests.  I had more bills.  Now I wouldn’t have a steady flow of income rolling in:  I would have to start getting new customers from scratch again!

roller coaster

Failure.  It teaches you. You either learn to adjust or lose something.  Instead of taking this client in an incremental way and maintaining all the other clients I built up over the years, I decided to let them go and just work for the apartment guys.  Bad mistake.  Now it will be twice as hard to attract new customers, without some form of serious marketing and promotion.  Which can translate to costly.  We may have been able to snag a few of our old residential customers; however, most of them moved on.  Photo:

You must prepare for tomorrow for your business. Save funds and adjust your working model to cope with different dynamics.  Above all don’t place all your eggs in one basket — no matter how attractive that basket may be.  It’s problematic because it sets you up for failure.  What happens to your business when a client moves on?  How will you deal with a sudden loss of income?  Planning is key.

Experience is the best teacher. Remember when your Dad said, “Don’t tell ’em nothing!”, “Experience ah teach ’em”  to your mom concerning the way you were acting when you were a teen?  It’s true!  At 18, you know everything by then 🙂 .  You also find out that friends you call friends aren’t really your friends and they would stab you in the back given half a chance.  We tend to be trusting creatures and try the find the good in people.  This trait is hard-wired; we strive to be socially connected to others.  That is, until experience shows us differently.

Experience is a life long lesson. I’m always taking in small ideas and ways of doing something different in construction.  There’s always new products and ideas to try out.  We never really stop learning.  As a 20s something, everything about life is rush, rush, and making impulse decisions.  Getting older, experience teaches you to plan ahead and think longer about important decisions, as well as organizing better so you can find stuff 😉 .

“Where’s mah tools?”


True friends are far between. I can count real friends I’ve had on one hand.  What they say is true: as you get older and older, you have less and less friends that you stay in contact with.  Family becomes more important.  Raising your kids and enjoying life is the focus.  Friends will burn you out: either from loaning them money or draining your positive energy with negativity.  I’m not saying all friends behave this way — some of your family members can be the worst!

Supposing you have tried and failed again and again.  You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.  ~Mary Pickford

How does failure apply to my business? Well, the largest dynamic to failure is that it empowers you to change.  Change is the way you operate from bad experiences and the lessons they taught.  Find ways to streamline customer service and stay organized.  Always be open to new ways of thinking about business and the processes involved.  Tomorrow is another day to improve.  Good luck.

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