As David Byrne, the lead singer of The Talking Heads and creative tour-de-force said in their song Once in a Lifetime, “Well, how did I get here?”.
I come from a family of entrepreneurs, owned two companies, consulted for over twenty distressed companies during the financial crisis, was the CEO of a distressed manufacturing company with two plants and 300 employees. I have spent my career in shit shows. So as they say in the Farmer’s commercial…”I know a lot, because I’ve seen a lot” (I wish I would have thought of that one).
As I contemplated what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I did a lot of soul searching. Not on what I wanted to do, but what I love to do based on the gifts I have. I committed to myself that my next vocation would be based on what I love to do: help people, coach people, and fix things.
Based on my business and personal experiences, I really wanted to explore failure, help people avoid it, and help them when it inevitably comes their way because we all get visits from the f*&K up fairy. Some are worse than others, many are avoidable.
Next to the death of a loved one, there is nothing more devastating to a business owner/executive than a failed business. I know because I have been there on both fronts. While success can lead to great things, including a high sense of personal and financial worth, failure can put you below zero. I know people who have never been able to rebound from a business failure, and one who committed suicide at his father’s grave after seeing the company his father passed onto him liquidated.
Why focus on failure? For a couple of reasons:
First and foremost, it is embarrassing and is not something that people like to talk about. But doing so has a cleansing effect and forces us to think about what we did wrong so that we can learn from it, and also help others avoid the same mistakes. This requires a value that many people do not have: ownership. It’s amazing how problems solve themselves when you own them.
Second, there are very few resources available that give practical advice on how-to fail. While there are hundreds of thousand of books on success, there are very few on failure. No one sets out to fail. However, it is the accumulation of years of small mistakes, and bad decisions that go unnoticed when a company is making money or growing fast that come home to roost when things get tough. If you were being taught how to fail, in business or life, these would be the mistakes you would make, and they are the mistakes I help people avoid.
I started my career in sales as a toddler, pulling my little red wagon around my neighborhood trying to sell my mother’s old magazines, started a car detailing business when I was 16, and bought my first business with my sister, and with the help of our parents at 23. After fourteen years in that business, I moved on (not by choice) to get a “real” job. It was while working in leadership positions at private equity owned turnarounds that I discovered I loved fixing things. Then, in 2008 when the economy imploded, I became a consultant at a firm that specialized in fixing distressed businesses. However, I had the itch to own something again so in 2013 I bought another company with two partners which ultimately failed (we will explore that on my blog).
Fortunately, I landed on my feet with my “dream” job. I was hired to be the turnaround CEO of a 300 employee manufacturer. It was there that I learned the most about myself as an executive, crafted my own philosophies on the basics of why companies succeed or fail, and became passionate about values, culture and purpose.
This blog is part autobiography, part how-to, and will also include case studies on business failure. In the first quarter of 2020, I will be launching a podcast by the same name where I will interview other executives who have gone thru major failures in business and life. The podcast will also include startup diaries where I follow startup CEOs thru the life-cycle of the businesses they founded.
In addition, I am an executive coach and public speaker, you can learn more about those services on this site.
My ultimate purpose here and in my consulting practice is to help executives avoid the common pitfalls that lead to losing money and sleep, to dysfunctional cultures and ultimately to failure so that they can build enduring companies that benefit all stakeholders.
Feel free to reach out at: firstname.lastname@example.org