5 Keys to Learning From Business Setbacks and Achieving Long-Term Success

5 Keys to Learning From Business Setbacks and Achieving Long-Term Success

Most business professionals experience failure and iterative learning before long-term success. How to improve the process.

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After years of working in small businesses as well as large ones, I’m convinced that you shouldn’t expect to get it all right the first time, and learning how to run any business is more a result of practice and experience than just academics. Therefore, I often recommend to entrepreneurs and business professionals that they not get too frustrated with initial failures or give up too soon.


Of course, there are some basic principles that people in all careers follow today in maximizing their success, including discipline, determination, learning from mistakes, and practice. If you are into instant gratification or overnight stardom, then starting and growing a business may not be for you. Just ask any one of the big winners in business today, such as Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos.


Here are the key recommendations I offer all my clients for learning and moving forward in the business arena, based on my own experience and listening to business leaders and professionals in technology, as well as services:

  1. Define your success objectives early and don’t stray. 

Don’t be easily distracted from your goals, and don’t expect business success from a random walk. If you don’t know where you are going, it is highly unlikely that you will ever get there. Stay motivated and positive on making every iteration get you a step closer to that desired destination.

Successful people find that setting goals and objectives provides motivation, rather than waiting for other incentives, such as easy cash or living free. Yet I find that motivation takes you only so far. Goals, when used correctly create habits, which drive true success.

  1. Focus on what you have learned from each iteration. 

Even when results from your plan seem to have eluded you, find positives in what you have learned. Success comes to those who never give up, and adapt most quickly. Use your vision and passion to keep the energy flowing, guide your efforts, but don’t hesitate to pivot as you learn from failure.

The great businessman Thomas Edison called his every iteration an experiment. He made no excuses for 10,000 light filament failures. Challenged by his contemporaries, Edison responded: “I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He then succeeded.

  1. Keep your primary attention on market needs today. 

Change is the only constant in today’s world of customers and competitors. You can succeed only by listening to all feedback, positive and negative, and iteratively adapting to what you have learned. Factor these changes into your original dream, but don’t assume it can change the world.

In extreme cases, the change you learn about will require that you essentially reinvent yourself or your business. I believe in the new adage that if you’re not disrupting, you will be disrupted. You will need to get outside of your comfort zone to survive and prosper.

  1. Build more relationships with experts and peers. 

This requires proactive networking and active participation in relevant industry conferences and forums. In business, success is often not what you know, but whom you know, and who knows you. It’s easy to get too immersed in daily issues, so be sure you reserve some time for relationships.

An example is the famed mentoring relationship between Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, both very busy and very smart people. While they have always been in totally different businesses, each still gives much credit to the other for their own learning and success.

  1. Keep up with the latest tools and academic offerings. 

Just remember that you must never be too busy to learn new things. New software tools and business courses arrive every day, and keeping abreast of the latest in this rapidly changing world is a primary key to progress and success in business. Not keeping up means falling behind quickly.


In my view, a relatively recent technology that has already transformed many businesses is artificial intelligence, yet the potential is even larger. If you don’t find it in any of your solutions or processes yet, it may be time for some new learning.


I assure you that you won’t succeed with every business step, but you will always learn something new. By capitalizing on this learning, and following the principles outlined here, you can make every initiative, even failures, a step forward in your journey to business success. I submit that if you celebrate every step forward, you will find it comes easier and gets you further every time.


Tools for learning


One of the greatest sources for learning is from your own customers.  Using mystery shopping to measure your customer’s experience and surveys to gage your customer’s opinions are just two of the learning tools we offer.  What to know what your competition is up to? We can help you with competitive mystery shops.


We’re here to help and look forward to chatting with you about your market insight and customer experience measurement needs.