The Art of Falling Gracefully
To be a successful startup founder you need to learn to take a tumble and get back up again. Here’s how.
By Jessica Bishop (Founder, Klink Mobile)
I fall down. A lot. But, in the process of founding two companies, I’ve learned a little secret: If you want to be the founder of a successful startup, there is nothing more important than resilience. You have to be able to take some tumbles and then, brush your shoulders off and get right back up again. When you learn to fall and fail with grace, the slip-ups that make starting your own company so challenging can actually be turned into successes.
A Dramatic Entrance
To take a literal example, when I was in Kuwait City in 2010 securing some key contacts for the first company I founded, Prepay Nation, I had the opportunity to prove just how resilient I could be. I was entering the office of the CTO of one of the largest mobile operators in the Middle East. It was a gorgeous space with white marble floors and vaulted ceilings, and I was so taken with it that I failed to notice a shallow step in the entryway. Unfortunately, I had also decided to wear heels that day — something, that’s never been my forte. As I began walking forward in greeting, smiling wide, my heel caught on the step, and of course, I fell forward, sliding across the marble floor into the center of the room. What a way to make an entrance!
Obviously, I was horribly embarrassed. But I picked myself up, joined the CTO in a laugh about what had just happened, and carried on with the meeting as planned. Turns out, this was a great icebreaker. It immediately helped the CTO feel more comfortable around me, and I ended up signing his business on with our company that afternoon. Needless to say, he has never forgotten me. A dramatic fall is a great way to make a lasting impact on someone’s long-term memory.
A Positive Approach to Failure
While most of my stumbles and mistakes have been a little less theatrical than this one, the lesson I learned about turning belly flops into boons has stayed with me. When I realized that mobile top-up machines were being overshadowed by mobile-to-mobile money transfer technology, I didn’t give up; I learned from my mistakes and took my business in a new direction. Klink Mobile capitalizes on the added value that comes with peer-to-peer transfer technology, allowing customers to pay bills, purchase minutes and transfer money worldwide from the comfort of their very own mobile devices.
Consequently, I knew that I wanted to make a positive approach to failure a core ethical value of Klink’s corporate culture. No matter what befalls the Klink Mobile team, we bounce back; we refuse to let little things like embarrassment or imperfection get the better of us. Because we aim to learn something new every time we make a mistake, we are always becoming a stronger business and a better team. And we never forget to store those lessons away to help us avoid mistakes in the future.
I wanted to share these personal examples from my real journey as a startup founder because I think it’s important to remind new entrepreneurs that you are not alone if you feel a little clumsy or a tad foolish at first. It’s a rocky road out there, but it’s navigable. Just remember that even when superstar entrepreneurs show up on Bloomberg or make it to a successful IPO, most of them have fallen down at least once or twice somewhere along the way. They just know how to pick themselves back up again. And they choose their footwear wisely.
This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.
What’s been your most memorable career stumble as a founder?