Nov 27 2007

Failure Begets Opportunity

Lee Copeland
Photo: Orlando Copeland

“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal; it’s the courage to continue that counts.”

Those inspirational words by Winston Churchill apply to the world of business as well as war and mirror the sentiments of numerous successful business owners interviewed for BizTech’s year-end issue.

Along the path to success — or failure — mistakes inevitably sprout up like kudzu. But as the CEOs spotlighted in our “Looking in the Rearview Mirror” cover story attest, failures needn’t be fatal. Instead, a mistake is often a disguised opportunity to assess what worked and what didn’t, and revise the business plan accordingly.

Take Al Goldstein, for example. About four years ago, Goldstein and his brother Alexander started an online cash-advance business. Not only did the Chicago startup stay in business for four years, pulling in more than $70 million in annual revenue and growing to more than 450 employees, it was acquired for $100 million last year by fast-cash kingpin Cash America International. Although his is an extraordinary startup Cinderella story, Goldstein says he made mistakes on the road to success — such as focusing on costs as opposed to results when building an online, customer-facing payment engine. The setback caused his company to dig into limited cash reserves, yet it also helped Goldstein realize the importance of hiring strong technical experts and of agile Web-based systems. For more insights on best and worst technology investments — from Goldstein, as well as John Chuang of Aquent, Ganpat “Jim” Jain of ICC Enterprises, Lucas Roh of Hostway and Gary Slack of Slack Barshinger — look here.

So, how do you recover from an implementation gone south or some other IT miscalculation? If the last 13 years of professional football have taught us anything, it’s that teams that lose in the Super Bowl often don’t bounce back. High-profile players with egos as big as their salaries demand to be traded, angry with the teams that let them down. Other players, after “leaving it all on the field” in the big game, have little left to give when the new season starts and are more prone to injury and less-than-stellar productivity. Only six losing teams have made the playoffs the following year, and only three managed to win at least one playoff game.

Your technology project might not be the Super Bowl, but if it ends in failure you can expect similar problems. In our online feature “Super Bowl Hangover,” David Christiansen tackles the difficult process of assessing the damage and formulating a new game plan. Here, you’ll also find our Rearview Mirror analysis — insights from business leaders about how they recovered from their biggest IT mistakes and what they learned, as well as profiles of CEOs on what matters to them when it comes to investing in IT for business growth.

Lee Copeland
Editor in Chief