Throughout the month of February, my company AMW Site Designs highlighted several successful entrepreneurs and even highlighted a successful black owned business that dated back to the 1900’s. History is a great opportunity to reflect on the triumphs, lessons learned, and failures made by those that have come before us. Here are some lessons learned that you can apply as you work to grow your small business into a successful venture.
Look for Opportunities in Failure
There are often times where an idea for a business didn’t turn out as intended. Perhaps the demand for it is not there, the market is too saturated, or your profit margin is smaller than you hoped it would be. Instead of giving up after your first failure, use it as an opportunity to learn and try again.
The Patterson-Greenfield Automobile Company, the first Black owned car manufacturer, created a car model that rivaled Henry Ford’s “Model T”. However, the Ford company far outweighed their manufacturing capability and financial backing. As a result of not being able to compete, production of the Patterson Automobile eventually halted. Instead of wallowing in defeat, the company found their niche in other areas. They eventually rebranded themselves as a bus manufacturer, and became the key manufacturer of school buses for the Greenfield, Ohio School District. They even began to build truck and bus bodies for other manufacturers that they once rivaled.
Lesson Learned: Failure is an opportunity to do something different (or even better!)
Success and Failure are a Part of the Journey
Wally Amos, creator of the Famous Amos cookie brand found both great success and failure throughout his career. In a short amount of time, he had several stores open across the U.S. and his cookies were sold in chain stores nationwide. However, when he first moved to Los Angeles in the 1960’s, he was burdened with the debt of a failing business and struggling with what to do next. Instead of ultimately giving up, he honed his talent for baking cookies and within months of opening his first store, became a success. Even years later when he had to sell his business to a larger company, he continued to launch other businesses such as a muffin brand and a cookie brand based in Hawaii where he resides with his family.
Lesson Learned: Success and failures are a necessary part of the journey
Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
As your business becomes more successful, it is essential to tighten the reins to make sure that your business affairs are in order. There can be so many new tasks to worry about such as making sure you file your taxes, making payroll on time if you have full time employees, and tracking your profits and losses closely. Wally Amos, now a motivational speaker and author has been very honest about the fact that the reason why he was in a position where he was forced to initially sell his Famous Amos cookie brand, is because he lacked the knowledge to run a successful business. He had the passion, desire, and knowledge about his product, but knew little about the business side. For the brands he operates today, he hired reliable resources to run operations on the business side.
As a small business owner, make sure that as you grow your business, you surround yourself with people who are knowledgeable and trustworthy. It is ok if you aren’t great at everything! Just have the foresight to seek help when you need it.
Lesson Learned: Recognize when you need help and seek reliable resources
Give Yourself a Shot Even When No one Else Will
There is a quote by Madam C.J. Walker who created and operated a successful brand of African American hair products that states, “I got my start by giving myself a start”. The internet has provided boundless opportunities for entrepreneurs to be self-starters, lessening the need to solely rely on established outside sources. Issa Rae wrote and produced her own series on her YouTube channel, established her own production company and created content that she believed in all before she found success as the producer and lead of the hit HBO show “Insecure”. As a small business owner, utilize tools already available at your disposal and you will find that you have the power to make your own success.
Lesson Learned: You have the ability to build and define your own success