WE should not be scared to pitch new ideas, says Olga Kozlova
Entrepreneurs have a reputation of not fearing a failure. They are known to be predisposed to taking a gamble, keeping fingers crossed and hoping that everything will turn out for the best.
If one business idea does not work out, they start all over again with the same vigour, convinced that they have learnt from the past and will not make the same mistakes again.
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It has been noted many times that the attitude to failure is particularly positive in the US where investors prefer to put their money into entrepreneurs who have failed before whereas, in the UK, it places such entrepreneurs on a black list. The times, however, are changing and failure has become a lot more acceptable on this side of the Atlantic.
So failing is a good thing. It provides an opportunity to learn and gain experience to make the next project more successful. Repeat failing, however, could be psychologically and financially damaging and requires the individual to be extremely resilient to overcome the tide.
This is why dealing with failure is a key skill that needs to be developed by our students. Until the point that they reach higher education, most are used to succeeding with an ultimate achievement being entering their university of choice. The vast majority will take their studies in their stride and still not know what it feels like to fail.
However, having left university and facing the competitive challenge and intensity of the graduate recruitment market, it is little wonder that, for many, experience comes at a first job application. And indeed, attitude to personal failure, particularly if no job or interview is forthcoming, becomes all important.
There is no question that a graduate will need to develop a thicker skin to be undeterred by rejection and it is a skill which calls for the development of strength and confidence to withstand any knock-back.
This is one of the core objectives identified with the business training and mentoring process which lies at the heart of the Converge Challenge company start-up competition.
We want to help our participants to try something they have not done before, something that many would consider risky and outside the comfort zone. We want to show that developing entrepreneurial behaviours through the programmes like Converge Challenge or even trying to start a small business is a fundamental stepping stone in the need to develop the confidence to kick this fear of failure into touch.
As entrants weigh up participation in the 2015 Converge Challenge, they will ready themselves for the challenges in the year ahead in the knowledge that fear shouldn’t hinder their progress. The cardinal rule is not to fear trying something new and scary, but to develop the confidence and skills to overcome failure – learn from any mistakes made and not be burdened or weighed down by them to the point of giving up.
Sir Tom Hunter, one of our most inspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders of his generation, has often said that entrepreneurs should “not fear failure, but embrace opportunity”.
As if to underline this, he has been critical of business plans that only ever showed growth. Speaking at the Engage Invest Exploit conference in 2013, he delivered a keynote speech to conference delegates where he stated that the only companies he is keen to invest in, “are ones that can demonstrate how they dealt with adversity and failure.”
Converge Challenge too, has examples of young entrepreneurs who didn’t let failure get in the way of success. Unplaced in the 2013 Converge Challenge with his first invention, Caddie charger, University of Edinburgh post-graduate, David Hunter re-entered the competition last year with a very different business idea and this time made the final.
David has previously designed products for the medical, military and oil and gas industries and has designed Caddie charge, a device which uses an electric golf trolley’s 12-volt battery to charge smartphones, GPS devices and other small portable electronic products. Not making the final did not sully his entrepreneurial flair. His new business, Shotscope Technologies, is a smart wearable technology that automatically collects sports data. It can be applied to a wide range of sports, although David’s focus is specifically for the golf market.
He never let that initial failure get in the way of bouncing back with a product packed with innovation that now appears to be heading for sure-fire success.
• Olga Kozlova is Director of Converge Challenge.
Converge Challenge 2015 launches on 26 February.