Business Failure Is Not Always a Failure!

Hunter Carr

I’ve been reading about new business startups and was led to the Kauffman Foundation, founded by Kansas City’s Ewing Marion Kauffman. One of his famous quotes is “All of the money in the world cannot solve problems unless we work together. And if we work together, there is no problem in the world that can stop us, as we seek to develop people to their highest potential.”

They publish the respected “Kauffman Index” that annually ranks startup activity in metropolitan areas ( One of their reports states that 476,000 new businesses are started monthly in the USA, and opinions vary about how many of them fail. We hear that a new business is born in the USA every 60 seconds and that a business fails every 80 seconds. Those of us who have had our share of successes and failures can believe that. But just maybe it says that 20 seconds is the most important time in a business, the difference from failure to success. “Time is money,” so give me 20 seconds, and I will make some more money.

And is it always a bad thing to fail? Thomas Edison had many failures before inventing the light bulb, which changed all our lives. Edison Portland Cement Co. failed because at the time, concrete was too expensive for his idea for cement furniture, but it later built Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Edison said “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned, it doesn’t mean it’s useless.”

Edison had 1,093 patents during his lifetime, and he had many failures along the way. But he didn’t give up. He just looked for more opportunities, and he loved working. One of his most famous quotes is “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Richard Branson’s first failure came at age 16 and today he is a billionaire mogul, and his Virgin Group has about 200 companies. He says “Business opportunities are like buses; there’s always another one coming.”

Few would argue with the success of The Coca-Cola Company. But their idea for the “New Coke” was a dismal failure. New Coke was the most market-tested product in history, and research said it was “the best thing ever.” But it lasted 180 days and almost killed the company. Later they went on to produce Coke Zero, which is my favorite drink ever.

Besides a willingness to work hard, success means being willing to take a risk. True failure is not being courageous enough to take the necessary risks. That stops so many people from succeeding. Do we give up, or do we learn something from our failures? I love this quote from Robert Kiyosaki, who wrote Rich Dad, Poor Dad and fought his way out of bankruptcy and homelessness: “Losers quit when they fail. Winners fail until they succeed.”

The great Walt Disney failed in his first animation studio and suffered the loss of much of his intellectual property, but he went on to create the largest entertainment empire in the world. He famously said, “A kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

Mark Twain, the great American author, tried his hand at running a company, one that printed and published books, but he never sold anything that he printed and published. He got the idea to import watches from Switzerland, but that, too, failed, with only a few sales. He was so broke that he named his upstairs porch “Texas,” as Texas was favorable to the debtor. When the bill collectors would come to collect he would go out on the porch and his wife would tell the collector that he had gone to Texas.

Twain began his famous speaking tours to earn money. He became very successful and was able again to invest. In his hometown of Hartford, Connecticut, he was approached by a young man with a string and a tin can, a new invention. Speaking through a string, Twain thought, “that will never work,” and refused to invest $500 in the young man’s invention. That young man was Alexander Graham Bell, and that investment would have been worth millions of dollars in Mark Twain’s own lifetime; therefore, Mark Twain wrote: “We only see opportunity after it ceases to exist.”

Although Mark Twain was successful, he could have been considered one of America’s great investors, in addition to a great lecturer and author. For most people, they fail once and think, “I will not make the same mistake twice.” If they fail twice, they say, “for sure I will not chance it again.” Rarely do they continue to take the risk over and over again. Look back and ask yourself if you have tried a third time or more after a failure.

One of the Great American Stories in my lifetime that shows you should never quit, is one I have repeated many times, because it’s so good, it bears repeating. It’s about the promotion of the Heavyweight Championship Boxing Match between Muhammed Ali and George Foreman, by Don King. King was an unknown boxing promoter who had seen a series of troubles in his life, but he had an idea of “The Greatest Fight” to ever be promoted. Without significant money, King got Ali and Foreman to agree to a $5 million dollar purse each. He then needed the location and the capital to pull it off. He began looking for the money, and since King had little experience with a big fight like this, the investors said, “No way.”

King, with winning tenacity, saw 10 investors, and they said “no.” He saw 20 – “No,” then 40, and still, “No.” When I heard this story, I asked myself, “How many NOs do I hear before I quit, just stop, and say, ‘this will not work’?” King saw 72 before he raised the money. All odds were against him, and yet he became the face of American Boxing. You may not be a boxing fan, or a fan of Don King, but his story is one that says, “If you keep failing to success, the Sky is the Limit!” America is still the land of opportunity.

Why is America still the land of opportunity? If I were asked, “What is the one quality that makes a man go from failure to success?,” I would say, “Tenacity.” Is it painful to fail? YES, but when you take those failures and reach success, it is sweeter then honey! From the age of 20 and for 47 years I have spent my life taking risks and failing all the way to success. I have started, invested in, and operated many different companies, I have closed several businesses and sold several.

I still take risks today. I am involved in a diabetes therapy business, a consulting firm for entities that want to go public , and a new venture, helping trust beneficiaries to recover assets lost by a trustee. I enjoy public speaking and teaching Bible Studies, and I am pitched weekly on new deals. I live in a plush neighborhood, on a golf course, and own two large homes. I have a Great Family, all of whom are successful in their own right; the Best Wife any man could have, Vicki Carr; and a wonderful staff that helps me daily to keep up with all that I have going. I am a lucky and blessed man. Praise God!

Anyone can be successful. Watch for more articles that we pray will help you find your American Dream. When you have a moment, go listen to my wife Vicki Carr on YouTube singing “Song of America,” it will inspire you, as it does me every time I hear it.