#Asia Entrepreneurs, how do you handle setbacks?


While the milder setbacks can be fixed quickly, the critical ones — like a marketing campaign which didn’t deliver as per expectation — can cost you dearly

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Setbacks are a part of everybody’s life. Life is, as they say, a non-sequitur concoction of success and setbacks, feats and failures, which defies all logic. What differentiates one person from another is how each one handles both — the excruciating drag of the lows and short term memory of the highs!

For a startup venture, the founding team’s outlook towards setbacks can make all the difference between success and failure. Not that setbacks don’t happen in corporate life, however, the deep implications they have are profoundly different for a person “doing a job” and someone else “doing a startup”.

When you are in a job, a setback can happen due to several reasons: a project you were running didn’t give the desired outcome, an increment expected didn’t happen or a promotion due didn’t come through. However, in all cases, one never blames oneself.

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When a project falters, there is the team which didn’t perform, then there may have been the customer who kept changing stances and choices… and so on and so forth. If the increment/promotion didn’t happen, there is this factor of company performance, industry environment and most of all “evil manager and office politics” to share the blame. However serious the setback may be, which is not very often, it never creates self-doubt on your judgement and capability to pull through.

Now, move over to an entrepreneur’s life where the small and the not-so-small setbacks are a way of life. Since startups build something new by their very nature, there are a lot of presumptions and assumptions, gut-feel decisions and hit and trials, even after applying the best of market research and business plans skills.

There are possible missteps which can happen while building your core team, product roadmap definition, investor discussions and go-to-market execution. While the milder ones can be fixed quickly, like tweaking the roadmap to pull-in a feature-in-demand; the critical ones can cost you dearly, like a marketing campaign which didn’t deliver as per expectation.

These setbacks can create all kinds self-doubt in the mind of the entrepreneur – Is he on the right track? Is he reading the market correctly? Does the venture really have the potential to scale rapidly or is it just wishful thinking? Will his partners have what it takes to withstand the stress levels? Will he be able to scale up with the money raised – and many more such questions which may make him doubt his own judgement capabilities.

This is good to a certain extent as it forces the founding team to continuously seek validation from real data. However, if taken beyond a point, the self-doubt mentality will kill the venture. This happens when setbacks seriously start impacting the self-confidence of the founding team and instead of relying on their judgement to lay the correct course for the future, they start following every advice offered to them by mentors, peers, customers, investors and even friends & family!

The situation that follows is similar to the famous parable of five blind men and an elephant. Only the founding team has the full visualisation of the elephant. Everyone else around is partially or fully blinded from the baggage of experience they carry and look at the value proposition from a biased perspective. If the entrepreneur gets too swayed by them, they will never be able to build what they started the venture for.

The point I want to make is that, for an entrepreneur, no amount of setbacks should make them go astray from their vision of the final product. It is quite natural that every major setback will shake their confidence, but then they need to roll up their sleeves again and use it as an opportunity to make things better. If they follow this approach, I can bet that they will recover from the worst possible situations and succeed.

So, as long as you are in an entrepreneur’s shoes make the best of all the setbacks thrown at you and let them motivate you!

The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, submit your article here.

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