“FAILURE IS ANOTHER STEPPING STONE TO GREATNESS.” ― OPRAH WINFREY
As an experienced and innovative retail leader, Demos Parneros shares his view on how failure is imperative to finally achieve business success. He advises leaders to view failure as clues to show you the way to a more innovative solution.
Many successful people have talked of the importance of failure. It is an essential part of finding the way to success. Business leaders who continually pursue new ideas are bound to face failure, and this is not a bad thing.
In society, failure has become a kind of a dirty word, when in reality, it should be seen as a positive and necessary part of any successful process. Failure is a sign of progress, indicating growth rather than stagnation. While it may not feel so at the time, failure is often a blessing in disguise and can help you identify any blind spots or weaknesses in your strategy early on.
There’s a lot we can learn from failure if we open our minds to it. Humility is a powerful quality, particularly in a leader. Having the courage to view ourselves as fallible human beings as opposed to superheroes, can be encouraging to others, helps one connect with their teams, and makes room for alternative ideas for success.
Resilience is another quality one can learn from failure. Success isn’t about the ability to never fall, it’s about the ability to get up stronger. Flexibility, too, is a useful quality — being able to think on our feet, develop new tactics and change plans can all help one reach success.
Mistakes should be encouraged, in life and in business. Be curious about where things go wrong or not to plan. Don’t see these instances as things to be forgotten, but as clues to show you the way.
Learning from Failure
Some failures are necessary, but some aren’t. You can reduce the number of unnecessary failures you experience by working with others. The more experience you bring into your plans and your work, the greater your chance of finding success more quickly. You can increase your chances of success by leveraging expert feedback on your visions before launching them more broadly.
One example of an entrepreneur who failed spectacularly before finding success was Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of KFC. Sanders had been fired numerous times and was broke and homeless before he began selling his chicken recipe to restaurants at the age of 65. Ten years later, he sold the KFC business for $15 million.
Steve Jobs is another famous example. After founding Apple in 1976, he left almost ten years later due to a poor relationship with the CEO. Jobs found his way back to Apple through another venture and only then did the company gain the astonishing success we know it for today.
Failure and success are two sides of the same coin; one can’t exist without the other. This point is worth repeating. We can’t succeed without failure, and we can’t fail without success. As a leader, it is critical to creating a culture where mistakes are celebrated and seen as a sign of growth. This will empower your employees to take risks and try new things, which could be hugely beneficial for your business. Lead by example and leverage failure as a stepping stone.
Demos Parneros is an experienced and innovative retail and e-commerce leader, helping Staples grow from a startup to a Fortune 100 company, serving as President of North American Retail and E-commerce businesses. He subsequently took on the role of CEO at Barnes & Noble, leading a focused transformation plan, which eventually led to the sale of the company. In addition to previously serving on several high-profile company boards, Demos now leads CityPark LLC, which has invested in leading-edge consumer and retail tech startups.