Plotting a course around business failure

Nathan Jeffery is an entrepreneur, developer and speaker (among other things) who I have mentioned a couple times in the past (including when he basically saved this blog after I almost killed it). He recently published a series of blog posts that essentially plot a course around business failure that every entrepreneur should read – yes, every single one! 😉 – and I want to share them with you:

Micro Failure

Nathan tackles the popular notion that failure is something to be embraced, even sought after. While there is certainly value in the lessons you learn when you fail and not repeating those mistakes, it is a mistake to romanticize failure. As Nathan puts it:

When you fail in business you lose money and often wreck the lives of your employees. The current flippant and arrogant approach to failure is disrespectful to everyone who works with and depends on you for their livelihood.

Do what you love

I believe strongly in doing work you are passionate about. When you do work that doesn’t challenge you and doesn’t tap into your passions, it can be soul destroying (almost literally). At the same time, there are some practical considerations and a different way to think about fulfilment in your work that aren’t usually mentioned in the myriad articles about doing what you love.

You need to get satisfaction from producing quality work; this is especially true for the creative industries. Your clients will hardly ever comprehend how much effort you’ve put into your work, and quite often they won’t really care, many won’t even thank you. You need to be happy within yourself and get joy from the work you do.

Take Ownership

This short piece is really about taking responsibility. When you take responsibility for what you do, take ownership of your decisions, you make the choice to take more control of your life.

Taking ownership, to me, is more than taking responsibility and being accountable for your actions or lack thereof. You need to constantly be learning and questioning situations, especially when things go awry.

Focus and Commit

There are many ways to distinguish between businesses and one perspective that is increasingly relevant is to distinguish between businesses is between those that specialise and become experts and those that try to do everything and don’t do anything particularly well. I thought about specialisation and hyper-specialisation often in my previous career and I see it in my new industry.

Do one thing, maybe two but whatever you do, do it so darn well that it’s all you need to do. You can expand your service offering once you have a big enough team to handle it. There’s enough work out there for specialists to exist.

Hire a boutique accounting firm

Accounting is not even remotely something I enjoy dealing with or even have a clear handle on despite needing to understand legal accounting in order to set up a practice as an attorney. At the same time, having your books in order is essential if you want your business to function effectively so make the right decisions about who manages those books.

You need to know and understand what is going on in your business’ finances. Accountants can make mistakes. By understanding what is going on in your business’ books, you’ll not only be in a better position to manage your business but you’ll also have a better chance of spotting mistakes in your financial statements should your accountant slip up.

Pay for good contracts and use them

On this I am more than a little biased. In my previous career (and in one aspect of my current role), I wrote contracts for my clients that were intended to give their commercial relationships better structure and protection.

Unfortunately contracts are perceived as largely superfluous, to a large degree because they are often badly written and poorly understood and, as a consequence, regarded as “necessary but preferably no longer than 1 page”. Contracts are a critical component in business, it is worth having them done properly.

Hire a good lawyer, pay for good contracts and use them.

Image credit: Map by Unsplash, sourced from Pixabay and released under a CC0 Dedication


5 responses to “Plotting a course around business failure

  1. David Bennett avatar

    I think that is good advice about hiring a boutique firm. At the same time it has to be more than just one or two people or there is a risk that the person doing the work will be ill, change tack, get swamped, etc.

    1. Paul avatar

      For sure. Small doesn’t necessarily mean “boutique”. Sometimes it is just small and understaffed. It is more about the level of expertise and focus than it is about size.

    2. Nathan Jeffery avatar

      I agree, small and overworked accounting firms (or any other service business) will eventually result in bad service too, even though it’s unintentional.

      To me, boutique is not just about number of employees but also about approach to business.

      Google defines boutique as “a business that serves a sophisticated or specialized clientele.”

      In our case, before deciding on where to move, we did some research and planning. We were in the process of doing some tax and estate planning so we thought we would use that as an opportunity to interview different accountants.

      We identified potential accounting firms and sent them emails (with a brief) to request (paid) appointments. We used this time to discuss our frustrations with the previous firms (situations we wanted to avoid) as well as strategic issues we were considering at the time, asking for advice.

      We eventually moved to a boutique firm, specialising in owner operated/managed businesses. Things that stood out during the initial discussion include the accountant’s approach to billing (transparent and willing to work on retainer or per hour), approach to work in general (only works from the office in mornings and then remote for rest of the day), as well as time spent working at large firms in the states. The international exposure, although not immediately critical, is useful in terms of our business’ ambitions.

  2. Nathan Jeffery avatar

    Thanks for the kind words Paul. 🙂

    1. Paul avatar

      Thanks for the series! Nice work.

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