Failing to scale – The Daily Scaleup with Kim McAllister

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Why do we feel so ashamed about failure?

Speaking to business people about this column, the one thing they’ve all said they’d like to read more about is failure. The times it didn’t work out, when the investment wasn’t forthcoming or the staff weren’t the right fit…

Believe me I’m trying! I’m warming up a few contacts, encouraging them to share their stories and lessons for the future, but there is this reticence. I totally understand. My first experience of failure was my driving test. Ms Straight A student got behind the wheel and crumbled. I stopped at a green light for goodness sake. I’ll never forget the shame of skulking back into the common room, listening as well-meaning friends reassured me.

“We got 83 no’s before we got a yes,” Lesley Eccles, co-founder of billion dollar company FanDuel, told me. It’s a comment I’ve shared widely because I think it shows incredible persistence. As a mother who’s returned her screaming toddler to bed 83 times before he finally fell asleep, I get it.

Sir Tom Hunter, who famously started selling slippers in The Barras market in Glasgow, told me he had to mind his neighbour’s stall when he went for lunch. He sold hoover spares – and Sir Tom made more money for him in that hour than he made for himself the whole day. How depressing would that be? Yet look at him now.

Perhaps we find it easier to talk about failure when we’re down the road and succeeding. It’s easier to turn it into a positive when you’ve learned from it.

So I’d like your feedback please. What keeps you going when the business landscape looks bleak? What drives you? How did you deal with failure?

And to those contacts who I’m trying to persuade to share their story – come on, we’re all friends here…

Drop me a line kim@impactonline.co.uk

Kim McAllister is a Journalist & Communications Consultant and director of Impact Online

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