When I opened Darrow’s Farm Fresh restaurant in Gramercy/Union Square of Manhattan, I felt an all-time emotional high, as if I was king of the world! Over the course of the next few months, that initial excitement quickly turned into anxiety. Organizing media requests and PR, responding to positive (and negative!) Yelp reviews, constantly hiring employees and managing the turnover that typically plagues the restaurant industry, payroll for 30+ employees, negotiating with food suppliers (and keeping a close eye on those tight margins when they quietly raise prices), handling catering and private event requests, managing all of the different delivery platforms (Seamless, GrubHub, Postmates, etc.) and ensuring consistency/quality control… should I keep going? I think you get the idea. It was overwhelming! My health started declining. I was experiencing chronic headaches. I owned a health-centric restaurant, and wasn’t being healthy myself because I was stress eating all the time!
What to Do When Your Business Venture Fails
I made one of the most difficult and painful decisions in my life –– to close the business after a year.
Initial Feelings: Embarrassment, Panic
Your friends and family probably knew about your venture. You’re worried about how they will perceive you if the ship sinks. You wonder, How will this affect my social life? Will my parents no longer be proud of my accomplishments?
But you’re also thinking about the long-term. You might tell yourself that you won’t be as employable if you fail. You wonder, will an early failure affect my ability to engage in future business ventures?
You may even owe investors money, or have drained your savings with zero chance of gaining it back. There can be plenty of serious concerns. Panic sets in. It’s so easy to tell yourself that one moment of failure will ruin you. It’s a gut reaction to be really hard on yourself. We’ve all been there! Especially in the business world. So, what should you do if you fail?
What to Do First: Absolutely Nothing
Don’t make any sudden or rash decisions. Maintain your normal routine, go to sleep at normal hours, go to the gym, eat well. Take care of your body and psyche. This is the time to pause, breathe deeply, and reflect on the overall experience. Just launching a business is an incredible feat and huge accomplishment which most people will never do.
Reframe the situation into something positive. There is no such thing as “failure.” You get to determine what is successful and what isn’t, not others. It may not have been the financial success as you’d hoped, but it could have been a success in many other ways.
Take the opportunity to learn from your past. What partnerships/contacts did you make because of it? Maybe you can use the network you built to accomplish something greater in the future. What did you learn about yourself in the process? Personally, I’m incredibly proud of what I built and accomplished with the restaurant. I formed partnerships with major companies like Nike, Soulcycle, Lululemon, which I never thought I was capable of doing prior to starting a business.
What to Do Next: Broaden Your Scope and Look to the Future
What did you like about the industry you were in? What did you not like about it? List out the pros and cons. Now is the time to make a decision: do you want to stay in the same industry, or change? Let’s not underestimate how much of an incredible gift this is. You are completely liberated. You get an opportunity which few people ever get in their life: to start over, with more knowledge and insight than you had before. Treat this rare opportunity with great care and thought. Do you want to jump right back in and start a new endeavor? Or maybe find an entrepreneurial role within a larger organization? Remember, all it takes is one major success to wipe out all failures. An example I often use: has anyone ever asked you “Where did you get rejected from college?” Of course not, they ask “Where did you go to college?” What matters most are the lessons you learned throughout your journey, and where you ultimately end up as a result.
The most important thing is never to let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish something amazing. I never question my capacity to learn and grow. And as long as I am capable of doing that, then I feel as though I have a never-ending opportunity to succeed. Remember, you create your own reality.