THE BLOG

Can Your Business Failure Be Another's Success?

02/10/2014 11:27 BST | Updated 01/12/2014 10:59 GMT

According to the Small Business Federation, businesses that seek support are 70% more likely to survive beyond the first 5 years. It's not rocket science - like everything in life, you're more likely to succeed with input from those who've done it before. Entire business sectors have grown based on that premise.

When the Government launched Start Up Loans two years ago, they understood money alone was not going to reinvigorate this scene, business survivability was dependant on more than just cash. Believing that support and advice was equally if not more important than capital, Start Up Loans was born - with every loan we provide a mentor.

This approach is something I personally champion, not only can a mentor guide and advise you, but you can learn from their mistakes. When my brother and I opened our restaurant seven years ago, we didn't seek any outside advice. Sounds ridiculous now, but it is true. Heart first, then head was how we tended to operate. And let me tell you - we could have saved ourselves a lot of heart ache, not to mention cash, had we had a mentor.

We've made plenty of mistakes. But we are not alone. All business men and women will make mistakes. Business is a journey, it is not an event, a journey which is fraught with decisions. It is only right and natural that mistakes will be made. Of course it is not the mistakes you make that define you, it is learning from said mistakes that makes up your business DNA.

Understanding where you went wrong is a skill in itself. And not hiding from it takes courage. In the United States courage is a skill more prolific than in us Brits. Failure is part of the discovery. Being the world's melting pot of cultures and creeds carries with it huge advantages - try and you will succeed, if you fall get back up again. Here in the UK we need to foster more of this attitude, indeed it was our Godfather Lord Young of Graffham that said if we're more like the US in our attitude, then self-employment could provide 900,000 more jobs in the UK.

As the creative director at Start Up Loans I often get asked to mentor start-ups, especially in the food and drink sector. I go in with a critical eye, and impart as much knowledge as possible in the hope it helps them avoid the errors I made. Drawing on my tough times is the best knowledge I have, and I know many colleagues draw from the same bank. In fact many mentors for Start Up Loans have failed businesses, and got up and tried again.

It's a story we hear from entrepreneurs up and down the land. In the back of a lengthy black cab ride on a rainy winter's evening James (Caan, our Chairman) told me a long story of his famously failed attempt at running a chain of sandwich shops. He lost a serious amount of money, and the reason for his failure came down to not knowing the industry well enough. Perhaps if he'd have brought in specialist advisors, who knows what a difference it might have made. But he lives to tell the tale, and takes the lessons he learned from failure forward to his new ventures. Lord Sugar is another entrepreneur famous for highs and lows. The key to unlocking success is understanding what went wrong, and learning how to prevent it from happening again.

And it's not just famous people who get to learn from their mistakes. Start Up Loans mentor Vikki Leffman, successfully ran the restaurant Granita for 12 years with a business partner. After selling the restaurant she decided to open a bakery with a new partner, but quickly realised they weren't a compatible team! She decided to cut her losses and they closed the venture after a few months. She knows her experiences running the bakery have made her an even better mentor, she can spot pitfalls quicker and help guide her mentees through.

As the saying goes we learn from failure, not from success. So if you've learnt certain lessons the hard way, it can make you an even stronger business person and mentor.

By their very nature people that start businesses are innovators and risk takers, as Einstein famously said;

'Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.'