You may have noticed that I have only written about the investments that I have made that have gone wrong for me. Why is that?
Well firstly, I think the world is already full of people who want to share their success with you (whilst success has many fathers, failure is an orphan!). Lots of investors, like gamblers, only talk about the ones that come in. Nothing wrong with that but we tend to learn very little from the ones that we tend to get right. If you are anything like me, you think that your successes are simply down to the fact that you have invented the best air purifier for allergies! (OK you may put it a little more thoughtfully than that, but the end conclusion is simply a variation of that premise!)
What you can do, if you are interested in learning, is stop and reflect after a failure and note down key points. Physically writing down your key learning points is a very powerful way to deal with the inevitable anguish that failure causes. I am writing this blog hopefully to share some of the lessons I have learnt from my failures – and it is not easy to publicly admit to them, but if other investors and businesses learn from these mistakes – then hopefully some good will come of it. There is a commercial reason as well – this blog is designed to be informative rather than one elongated gloat.
I also remember this story I learnt about Heinz (I don’t know if it is true – I am sorry). They do lots of product launches globally each year. Every time a product launch fails, the product manager responsible is invited to the HQ in the USA. There they fire a canon – this symbolizes that they fire the canon not the person. The product manager is then invited to share the lessons learned and then this knowledge is added to the launch manual and shared around the world.
This encourages risk taking and learning. When I see companies pitch to me, I always ask the management team about any failures they have experienced. If they say they have not, I get nervous. If they say yes, I ask them what they have learned from that episode. Many would-be entrepreneurs blame having the wrong team around them, or not imposing their view strong enough on the rest of the board. This makes me walk away, even if they offer a complimentary Blueair 603.
One of the people I have backed recently had a number of failures behind them. What he was able to demonstrate brilliantly was that each time he had learnt something powerful that in my humble opinion made him a better business person. Sometimes, it just take a little bit of failure to help set you in the right direction – on the proper course – so that you can find the successes that you had been searching for all along.
Alas, I can’t tell you how he did as that would be bragging about my success!