Don’t let set­backs at work­place take you down

New Straits Times - - Business - The writer is man­ag­ing con­sul­tant and ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship coach at EQTD Con­sult­ing. He is also the au­thor of the na­tional best­seller “So, You Want To Get Pro­moted?”

ONE of the tough­est things you will ever have to do is bounc­ing back from set­backs. Yet, the abil­ity to re­cover is ar­guably the most use­ful skill that you will need to mas­ter in life. What you do when you en­counter these stum­bling blocks will de­ter­mine how suc­cess­ful you be­come.

Nov­el­ist Richard Yates wrote in his crit­i­cally ac­claimed book Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Road: “If you don’t try at any­thing, you can’t fail… it takes back­bone to lead the life you want.” The only way to in­su­late your­self from any fail­ure is to never try any­thing.

I left paid employment to be­come a busi­ness owner in 1995. The big­gest les­son I had to learn over the past two decades is the art of re­cov­er­ing from set­backs.

I could say my fail­ings were due to bad part­ner­ships, a down­turn in the econ­omy, the lack of fi­nan­cial back­ing, and so on. But hon­estly, they were due to my bad de­ci­sions.

But, I learnt to not al­low these dif­fi­cul­ties de­bil­i­tate me for long. Let me give you an ex­am­ple.

My wife and I are the ma­jor­ity share­hold­ers in a neigh­bour­hood bistro, D’Le­gends, in Ta­man Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.

It of­fers me an av­enue to prac­tise my cook­ing and where the feed­back is in­stant. Cus­tomers ei­ther like your food or they don’t, and they have no qualms about let­ting you know di­rectly, or through a bad re­view.

While this is grat­i­fy­ing, what is more im­por­tant is that this bistro of­fers me a plat­form to test my skills for my “real” job.

My own­er­ship of D’Le­gends bistro has put me back in the front­lines of run­ning a busi­ness.

I have to deal with op­er­a­tional mat­ters, rang­ing from er­rant sup­pli­ers and un­der­handed com­pe­ti­tion, to bad re­views and gov­ern­ment li­cens­ing com­plex­i­ties.

When I ven­tured into this busi­ness, some of my as­so­ci­ates ques­tioned my wis­dom in get­ting back to an en­ter­prise that re­quired hands-on man­age­ment. Es­pe­cially since they felt this was a busi­ness in which I had no ex­pe­ri­ence.

But they did not know that D’Le­gends was not my first foray into the food and bev­er­age in­dus­try.

My first en­try into this sec­tor was in 1999, when I set up a restau­rant. At the time, I had a day job, too. I was the chief ex­ec­u­tive of a col­lege of higher learn­ing. Notwith­stand­ing the grav­ity of that po­si­tion, I went ahead and opened the restau­rant.

The first few months went well. But jug­gling be­tween both busi­nesses re­quired me to be an ace time man­ager; which I was not. I had no ex­pe­ri­ence in the busi­ness, so I had to trust others; and that turned out badly.

But ul­ti­mately, the busi­ness went bust af­ter two years, be­cause of my bad de­ci­sion-mak­ing. I spent some time wal­low­ing in self-pity. It was hard to see my own role in why the busi­ness had failed. I swore that I would stay away from this cut-throat in­dus­try.

But I bounced back and worked at my craft as an en­tre­pre­neur.

Fif­teen years later, armed with more ex­pe­ri­ence, self-ef­fi­cacy and be­lief, I have reignited my pas­sion for the food busi­ness with a dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed at D’Le­gends.

My ear­lier failed restau­rant busi­ness was not my only set­back in en­trepreneur­ship. There have been others.

How does one re­bound from these fail­ures?

First, take time to un­der­stand why it hap­pened. Be in­tro­spec­tive. Ev­ery time you think it was an ex­ter­nal fac­tor; stop your­self. Ask your­self: “What was my role in mak­ing that ex­ter­nal fac­tor im­pact my de­ci­sion mak­ing”.

Next, get guid­ance. Soon af­ter my first set­back in busi­ness, I started seek­ing peo­ple who had a track record of be­ing suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs. I wanted to learn from them. I worked at de­vel­op­ing re­la­tion­ships with them. I of­fered them value; not to earn but to learn from them. I took their feed­back se­ri­ously and ab­sorbed what they said.

The third thing was that I fig­ured out it was eas­i­est to blame others for any fail­ure. So, I learnt that no one else is to blame for my mis­for­tune.

I fi­nally un­der­stood what the Ro­man philoso­pher Seneca had said all those years ago; that luck was when op­por­tu­nity met pre­pared­ness. This meant I had to own my de­ci­sions, re­gard­less of whether the out­come was suc­cess­ful or not

Fi­nally, when I failed, I had to de­cide if I was on the right path. I had to de­cide whether I was cut out for en­trepreneur­ship, or whether I was just taken by the ro­man­tic no­tion of be­ing my own boss. Fail­ure and set­backs are the best mo­ments to force your­self to take a step back and look around you, to see where you are, to re­flect on your de­ci­sion mak­ing, and to hit the re­set but­ton, if nec­es­sary.

Re­mem­ber, you will have set­backs at work at some point in your ca­reer. Do not let your set­backs take you down, in­stead learn to bounce back, stronger.

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