Back to Startup Story

How to bounce back from setbacks

When building a startup, especially at the beginning, there are moments that can make the founders question themselves and question the business. Having moments like this are fairly common, as it's rarely a smooth ride to success.

In the last year of building GoRoadie, we have had our fair share of knockbacks and challenges. As one would expect.

Some of the setbacks that startups face include:

  • Investors rejecting a follow-up meeting
  • Missing Targets
  • Not qualifying for next round of competitions
  • Losing customers

For us at GoRoadie, we have experienced several types of setbacks. Most recently, we were pitching at Scottish EDGE. EDGE is a competition where the winners take home a prize that is part loan and part grant. We had been shortlisted from thousands of businesses and were invited to pitch and answer questions.

The day after pitching, we found out we were unsuccessful.

At that moment, you are obviously disappointed. Immediately you feel you're doing something wrong, you feel personally rejected and doubt yourself and horribly, you doubt the business that you are building.

However, within two-hours, my business partner and I were joking and focussed on making progress again. We're getting quite good at handling upsets. Creating a startup is definitely for the thick-skinned. Here are my tips on how to build resilience.

Failing is a learning opportunity

I live by the mantra that "Failing is Necessary" - it is definitely something I am not afraid of. I only see failure as an opportunity for learning and to improve. After the initial discomfort of failure fades, start to look at the situation and analyse what could have been done differently and what lessons could be taken away.

So, if your business was rejected like a competition, look at the feedback and reach out to judges to get more detailed feedback.

The same applies to not gaining investment and losing a customer - reach out and ask why. Simply by explaining that you're wanting to learn, others are often to share feedback and give advice.

Stockdale Paradox

You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end–-which you can never afford to lose–-with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

Jim Collin's Good to Great is an excellent read. My favourite book I've read this year. In the book, he talked Admiral Stockdale and how we were in a prisoner of war camp for years and his attitude that kept him going.

When you are building a business, always be aware of the brutal facts whatever they may be for your own business. Visualise them even. But also never lose faith.

Keeping this paradox front and centre when setbacks come in will keep you on the right path.

Expect Setbacks

An easy way to get over setbacks is to expect them. It's rare building a new business is going to be smooth, so, having set your expectation accordingly these moments won't blindside you.

If the situation was outside of your control or it was due to a decision you made… well, that's the entrepreneur life. Building a business is going to have its ups and downs, you will win and you will lose - but you will definitely learn.

Data over emotions

Look at the situation objectively and try not to take it personally. Analyse the situation for what it was, and remove all emotion from it. This will help to come to terms with the setback and also help improve moving forward.

In the example of not receiving investment, it won't be anything personal. Some firms want to work with companies that are hitting X revenue/month or in a particular market.

Look at what you're business could change in order be successful next time.

Focus on what's next

Okay, so you've analysed what happened, you've taken the lessons. Put your mind on what is the next practical task the business needs to achieve. Is it set up another meeting with a different investor? Is it speak to the board of directors for advice? Is it to refine and practise your pitch to integrate missing pieces of information.

Set a small goal for the next couple of days - make it realistic and measurable. Focus the efforts on something positive and start the work almost immediately.

Start building that momentum and positivity again. Move forward.

Read more about GoRoadie’s story, on either giving your teams a performance boost or 5 pitfalls when writing goals.