Entrepreneurs: Do NOT Learn from Your OWN Success

Do you really, really want to be successful?

Perhaps the question above is rather silly; who on earth doesn’t want to be successful? However, if you think carefully, despite all the perks given by the so-called “business success”, there are some major pitfalls that can drag your feet to a host of problems… unless you can handle everything that comes with success, you might not want to consider yourself as successful, just yet.

business success
Image by Bruce Berrien

Okay, you might consider me being pessimistic. Before you assume too much, let me make things clear: I want to be successful. I’m sure you are, too. However, in my 7 years of entrepreneurial journey, I found out that I fell into the same hole twice. You can call me donkey or dumbass, but honestly I was a fool. Well, not anymore as I’ve learned my lessons… so read on to see whether you can relate my story to your situations.

Success has caught me off guard…

You see, I once own two franchise units of once a leading local business service center. I thought that by jumping into the franchising bandwagon, my success is 50% guaranteed. It was a foolish assumption. Nevertheless, I started up anyway – the startup phase went so well; the store was able to reach breakeven point in 6 months. In its first anniversary, the store is on track to meet the 3 year return on investment (I was pitched that I will be able to reach ROI in 2 years, but I didn’t buy it – I recalculate things…)

Then I fell in the hole I created myself, called “learning from my own success.”

The fist unit’s success led me to establish the 2nd unit. It was all great in numbers, I thought. I was wrong. To cut long story short, the 2nd unit was a total failure. I chose the wrong location (even with the help of the franchisors, but I made the call…) I was able to break even, but that’s after the first anniversary. I was dumbfounded.

To make matters worse, the recession hit hard worldwide. My 2nd unit was in the red – so I take the profit of the 1st unit to sustain the loss of the 2nd one. Not long, the 1st unit was also losing money. At the end, I lose both franchise units. Total. Failure.

Do you think I learned the lesson? Think again!

It seems that I didn’t learn from my mistake. During the downturn, I managed to establish several sites, trying to get my hands dirty with Internet business. In 3 years, I was able to generate a nice amount of profits, enabling me to recover from my past failure. I’ve reached my milestones – to a certain point, I was considering my journey as a success, even though I know I have a long way to go.

Then again, I fell into the very same hole I dug myself: I learn from my own success.

I was able to grow a couple of sites into dozens of sites. Along with the other web properties I have, such as domain names, my online business consists of hundreds of web properties. How can I own that much, you asked… it’s simple, when I found one successful venture (by “successful”, I mean it’s making some money on regular basis in the amount that worth my time) I replicated it; and so on.

I once sold a domain name at $1,000. Then I thought it would be easy to replicate just that… I once also sold a website at $3,500. Then I thought it would be quite simple to build and sell a site at similar price… I once made some money from Google AdSense (4-digit a month.) Then I thought that doing the same thing would double, triple or quadruple just that.

All in all, I was wrong. Miserably wrong. Why? Because, again, I learn from my own success.

I thought that what was possible in the past would also be possible in the future. While I am a big believer of grabbing opportunities quickly, or else the window of opportunities passes by, I often forget that you need to analyse different factors before you establish yet another business, quite simply because things in business world – especially web-based business – are changing at the speed of light. What worked 2 weeks ago might not work today; what was profitable 2 weeks ago might not be profitable today.

Lessons learned – this time, for real…

No, I don’t want to make the same mistake again. I now know that establishing your fifth business should take the same amount of preparation as you do for the first one. You could “formalize” the core of your business, so that you can replicate easily for your next business, but you should always asses your situation thoroughly.

You should also keep on learning – just like what I said above, what you know today might already be obsolete next week. Just ask those copycats… they try to mimic successful business, but they forget that in order to be successful, you need to have your very own uniqueness; you should do things differently, even if the core is similar. If you want to mimic Facebook success, your success rate is slim if you want to establish the same social site that does the same thing. You need to do things differently, such as going niche. Establishing Facebook-like social platform for real estate industry? Now that’s an idea…

Last but not least – always find great business mentors. The right mentors will occasionally slap your head to tell you, “snap out if it!” and to help you keeping yourself grounded. The right mentors will also minimise the risks of you learning from your own success.

So there you go – my story to inspire you and keep yourself focused on your goals. How about you – what’s your story?