Recovering from Your Mistakes Can Turn Pain into Profit
By Ina Steiner
For some people, failure is the end. But for successful businesspeople, it's just the beginning.
That's the message from tax and financial expert Barbara Weltman, whose new e-book, Failing Smoothly: Top Industry Leaders Share their Secrets for Turning Pain into Profit, tells the stories of successful businesspeople who have not only overcome failure but learned from it and become better at achieving their goals.
Weltman says she was prompted to write the book after receiving a fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant. Her fortune? "Mistakes show us what we need to learn." She, too, has encountered her share of setbacks and problems, many of which she describes in Failing Smoothly. But the focus is not so much on the mistakes as on the recovery from them.
"I have run into all these mistakes myself and said, "I'm never going to do this again,"" she explains. "I know that other successful businesspeople have made these mistakes. We can all share these ideas with the reader and the reader will learn."
Some of the tips in the book focus on finding venture capital, choosing business partners wisely, and making a business valuable enough to sell it. Two chapters in particular will appeal to online merchants, providing tips on protecting oneself from customers who don't pay or are otherwise untrustworthy:
Do what you can to vet your customers.
"Know who you are dealing with," Weltman says. "Online, you do run into bad customers, who don't pay, or who lie about getting damaged goods," she says. "Protect yourself to whatever extent you can, using delivery confirmation, for instance."
Don't lie to your customers or clients.
In the book, she describes the CEO of an accounting software firm who failed to own up to the shortcomings of his software and compounded his problems with one client.
Own up to bad situations.
"Be prepared to deal with bad situations and deal with them, own up and handle them, don't make the situation worse by lying or pretending it didn't happen, or being foolishly optimistic that things will resolve themselves."
Other tips focus on the importance of planning a business so that it's well thought-out and separate from the owner's personal life:
Keep your business separate.
"Small online sellers sometimes fail to separate their business from their personal life," explains Weltman. "They don't set up a separate bank account, they don't have a business credit card, they don't bother to think about forming a company. They go into it with no business plan. They just think, "I'm going to sell a lot and make money.""
Look before you leap.
This tip is ideal for newbies looking to boost their business right now. "The biggest advice I can give is take the time to learn what you're doing, know what end is up, and decide how best to market yourself. Don't jump in too quickly. Often, people don't really step back and think things through and learn."
Every businessperson, no matter what the size of their company, needs help from wise colleagues and advisors, she adds.
Keep up your connections.
"It's a very small business world. You keep bumping up against the same people in various capacities and it's good to maintain good relations with everybody. Everybody finds their niche, and everyone helps one another."
Document your business processes.
Not surprisingly, given her background as a financial expert, she urges business owners to keep records. Documentation can help if owners need someone else to run the show, or if they just need to keep on top of their enterprise's financial state.
"They should systematize their processes. If they are on vacation or need to be out of town, it's possible that a spouse would be able to continue with the business. It's as simple as writing down passwords, if you want someone else to take over when needed."
The tips given in the book aren't fixed in stone. It's only fitting that, in publishing her e-book as well as running her own business, what seems to be the end of the process is only the beginning of a new chapter.
Weltman intends Failing Smoothly to be a "living book" that is continually updated. She was working on several new chapters that will be made available in the fall. Those who purchased the earlier version of her book will get the new material for free.
"At the end of the book, I say "Student for Life,"" she comments. "I am always learning. If I could leave one lesson with the reader, it's that the more you can learn, the better off you can be. Whatever it is, take the time to learn."
You can find Failing Smoothly on Barbara Weltman's website.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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