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Failing Successfully

Tue, 08 July 2014

Contributed by Ben Kelly, founder of Kelly Medical
I'm sure we all agree that failure in business is an interesting topic, and often a question you hear raised at entrepreneur talks by a really successful business person with a wealth of experience. But what about us small guys – the newer start-ups? 
The concept of 'past failures' turns into something much more abstract and may not actually be the 'hurdle' that we had to get over, but is the current inspiration to push on and do more!

For me this was certainly the case... so initially I'd like to thank my high school head of year 9 and home economics (I won't mention the school I was at). To quote said teacher: ‘Ben, you will leave this school with no qualifications and join the failures that have been before you.’ I think without really knowing it or understanding the importance of that moment, I have forever been trying to prove people wrong (starting with this teacher who, if you’re reading this, note my 3 degrees, PhD and growing clinical enterprise). This I know is the case for many young entrepreneurs. The common thread between us all is that failure is not an option. It happens, yes, but we will always find ways of overcoming and becoming stronger from it – essentially trying to prove people wrong.
But how do we do that? How do we ‘prove’ someone wrong but without exuding arrogance, ignorance and lack of perspective?  In the modern era it has become all too cliché to state ‘It’s not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up,’ but in essence that really is the key. But just getting up isn’t enough because getting up as the same person means you are going to get knocked  back down in the same way again and again, becoming victim to selfishness that ripens when we become too precious about our ideas. What we must learn is that failure provides us with the greatest lessons – it's the consumer, buyer, investor, (whomever) showing you their hand, laying their cards on the table. They don't like it… so what! The real gold for you is finding out why. You turn their reasons into your advantage. Reflect, adapt and re-deliver… same marketplace, different clients. 
Use the people that say ‘No, that won’t work’ or ‘No that's impossible’ as your biggest inspiration. The one thing I have learnt through the knock backs is how to take the negative feedback. It is easy to get offended and dismiss opinions as being wrong and misguided – an ‘I’m right and your wrong’ approach. That's only normal given the years of blood, sweat, and tears that you have invested into your concept, but learn to ‘fail successfully’ and use negativity to restructure your concepts. Ultimately, negative feedback is the very best market research you can get, and releasing some preciousness and tweaking your model to address the flaws raised will: A) give you a more appealing and marketable concept and B) open your eyes to many more opportunities, allowing you to look at your development from new angles and perspectives and possibly reach out to markets you never thought possible.
Winston Churchill once said ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’ This really highlights my point. Enterprise is not a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ thing, it is a balance. In order to have success you always have to have a dose of failure, because if we didn't remodel our businesses based on those failures, success would be impossible. In short, learn to listen and through listening and adapting, fail successfully.

About Ben Kelly (Founder of Kelly Medical)

Ben is the founder of Kelly Medical, and organisation which aims to offer a flexible system to give sufferers of chronic conditions such as cardiac disease and diabetes a chance to complete their health rehabilitation in a time efficient and personalised manner. By using patented technology, the business will be able to use an individual’s genetics to ascertain which rehab interventions are most suitable and how likely they are to respond to that intervention.