How to Bounce Back When Your Start-Up Stumbles

Female entrepreneur working on a model to rebuild start-up company

Jeff Bezos, Thomas Edison and Jerry Seinfeld might not have a whole lot in common, but would it surprise you to learn that they all failed before they achieved success? If you ask any successful person in any industry to discuss his or her previous failures, you’d probably be in for a long conversation. Everyone fails—it’s an inevitable fact of life. Failure itself doesn’t matter so much as how you respond to failure. Expect your start-up venture to stumble—because it inevitably will—and make a plan for getting back on your feet. This is a skill the GCU students earning their Doctorate of Business Administration with an Emphasis in Marketing learn throughout their coursework.

Give yourself a pep talk

All humans engage in self-talk—that inner monologue that everyone is grateful no one else can hear. Lock yourself in a dark room, away from hearing distance of others, and verbalize your self-talk. What you tell yourself doesn’t necessarily matter, as long as it’s positive, encouraging and you believe it. Remind yourself that Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 failed prototypes in 15 years before creating a multibillion-dollar vacuum. Who’s to say you’re not the next Sir James Dyson or Mark Zuckerberg?

Figure out what happened

There are plenty of reasons why start-ups fail. Here are a few of the top ones:

  • Lacks market demand for product or service
  • Runs out of cash
  • Issues with pricing
  • Problems with product quality
  • Lacks shared vision/motivated team
  • Lacks effective marketing strategy
  • Poor customer service
  • Legal challenges

It’s likely that many factors contributed to the stumbling of your start-up. Take a deep breath and evaluate the situation in a logical, non-emotional way. Are you losing customers or not getting customers? Are potential customers unaware of your company? Is your company located in an undesirable area? Are you having problems with vendors and supplies? Once you know exactly what happened, you can decide what your next move will be.

Figure out what to do about it

By nature, entrepreneurs are passionate people. They feel that they have a good idea and have a burning desire to share it with others. That spark of inspiration may be enough to launch a company, but it might not sustain the venture past the first few years. To stay competitive and turn a profit, your company may need to pivot. Pivoting may involve changes to your company’s:

  • Customer segment
  • Business model
  • Partners
  • Customer acquisition
  • Resources
  • Activities
  • Revenue model/pricing

A good pivot can be enough to salvage your beloved start-up, and lead it down the path toward profitability and sustainable growth.

Know when to walk away

It’s never easy for an entrepreneur to walk away from a start-up. You’ve poured your time, energy and resources into this project. Walking away may feel like giving up, but when God closes a door, it’s time to look for that next window of opportunity. If you can’t find a way to forge a future for your start-up, it may be a sign that opportunities lie elsewhere. When you walk away, take the lessons you’ve learned with you.

Grand Canyon University invites you to explore our Doctor of Business Administration with an Emphasis in Marketing degree program. You’ll collaborate with other inspiring students with entrepreneurial ambitions. Get started today by clicking on the Request More Information button.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.