A Business Lesson From Failure
Over the past few weeks, Black Enterprise has been posting articles each Monday as a part of its #MillionaireMovesMonday series. Each article has been based on excerpts from business mogul William F. Pickard, Ph.D. and his new book, Millionaire Moves: Seven Proven Principles of Entrepreneurship. The past topics covered to date include vision and attitude, opportunity, finance and forging relationships in business. This week, Pickard discusses something that no business owner wants to see but that everyone needs: failure.
Some may fall into the old mantra that failure is not an option, but the fact of the matter is that it is an inevitability. At the same time, though, failure is one of the best teachers in business and life, and Pickard explains how he was able to use a moment of failure to become a better businessman and leader.
“I’ll never forget that day. I had to drive to a hotel at Detroit Metropolitan Airport to stand in front of a group of irate creditors and try to explain what went wrong. I was so nervous, my palms were sweating and my heart was racing. I had never failed before and here I was at this very public event, hanging on by my nails.
As I approached the podium and looked into those angry eyes, I recognized many of the same individuals I had stood before 10 years earlier to make my initial pitch. Most were there— the people who supplied the cardboard boxes, the sales reps, the vendors who provided tools. Only one original creditor was missing—his position was now being handled by his son. All in all, there were about 100 men, pointing, hollering, and cursing,” he shares. A major part of working through this was admitting failure, but not defeat:
““You’re looking at the guy who made the decision to take on all of this business,” I said. “And it was more than we could chew.” The shouting escalated. But before I could utter another word, a guy stood up and asked everyone to calm down. (Unbeknownst to the creditors, this person was a plant who had been hired by my team to come to my defense.) The person reminded the group that I had run a successful business for 10 years and had paid them all back 40 cents on the dollar in a timely manner,” Pickard recalls. As he began a wind-down to work towards his exit of the company in question, Pickard thought back to a lesson from his late uncle, that failing is an intrinsic aspect of success and as much a part of being in business as securing a loan or writing a check.
At the moment, Pickard is CEO and chairman of six different enterprises, owns several McDonald’s franchises, and co-owns five Black-owned newspapers. He also sits on the board of the National Urban League and is a member of the Detroit Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).