Entrepreneur Sanil Sachar, co-owner of the sports brand Trusox, advises aspiring entreprenurs, "If the impact of your business leaks into your personality, then a failed business equals to a failed you. An entrepreneur is not the business but the ideas. So, don't take it personally. Separate yourself from your work."
"An entrepreneur is a successful failure." He sat on his desk, unfazed by his words. Confused, I asked again, ''what's your definition of an entrepreneur?''
Almost robotically he repeated, ''An entrepreneur is a successful failure.''
I knew this was going to be another unusual day with my mentor. It was the first time he invited me to his office. A room surrounded by glass windows, only one wall separated his cabin from resembling a green house. The door was ajar, inviting his colleagues to enter as they pleased.
The bare wall was filled with frames. There were over 10 such in sights but merely two frames had a date printed on a laminated paper. The remaining frames were empty, with names scribbled on the wall.
Intrigued, I asked him the significance of the wall.
''That wall represents my work life. Go closer to it.''
I did. Most of the names written on the wall under each frame were common amongst the others. Another commonality was that my mentor's name was placed in the centre, bigger and bolder than the others in each frame.
I looked at the frames with the printed dates. Still unaware, I tried seeking clarity, ''What do these dates signify?''
''The empty frames are missed opportunities in ventures my team and I didn't succeed in, or as it is commonly seen as ''failure''. The laminated dates signify the day we managed to avoid failure, or as is acknowledged as ''success''.'
''You've failed so many times?'' I counted the frames.
''I've avoided failure twice,'' he clarified.
''That's not saying much about your success rate. What are we discussing today?'' We'd sat before for hours over entrepreneurial discussions. Yet, this conversation is embedded most strongly in my mind. Maybe because with each day as an entrepreneur I understand the meaning behind his words: ''Being an entrepreneur teaches you how wrong you are about being right, and how right you are about being wrong.''
I lifted the laminated frames and read similar names scribbled on the wall. The difference was my mentors name wasn't in bold, neither was it in the centre. Instead it was in the corner.
''Today, we'll talk about the other 'F' word we aren't encouraged to scream out - Failure.''
His words made me realise the importance of the 'F' word.
''What's the point of the empty frames?'' I asked.
''They led me to those framed with dates. Before you begin any venture, you need to see, if you're willing to fail at it. If the answer is yes then you deserve to succeed. Failure is always an inevitable option.''
''Failure is inevitable? Isn't that very pessimistic?''
''Sanil, failure is always the option. If you never take the step and the chances to succeed, you will remain where you already are.''
''Why's your name…''
He interrupted, fully aware of my question. ''I wrote my name in bold because as the leader I took the decision to execute what led to a failure. The names around me are my team, clients, loved ones, everyone who consulted me and are impacted by this decision.''
''Why isn't your name in bold in the filled frames?''
''Many leaders like to be at the centre of success. Success needs to be shared. I rather observe it from the side than be absorbed by it, sitting in the centre.''
''Doesn't having numerous empty frames bring you down?''
He smiled at my naivety. ''There's a fine line between a business mind and a personal mind.'' If the impact of your business leaks into your personality, then a failed business equals to a failed you. An entrepreneur is not the business but the ideas. So, don't take it personally. Separate yourself from your work. While you shouldn't let the successes get to your head, failure shouldn't either. A low morale is the nemesis of an entrepreneur!''
''How could you start from where you failed?'' I continued to question his resilience.
''The idea isn't to continue from where you failed. But to go back to the drawing board and begin again. You should reevaluate the market, analyse your competitors, and restructure your business plan from scratch. But there are times when we spend so long on something that we feel we have to go ahead with it. This isn't always the case.''
''What happens to my team when I fail?''
''Being a part of a venture is a risk, so don't go out hiring employees. Hire owners and make them a part of the family. Failures appear mostly when you think you know it all. Leaders tend to get too possessive resulting in poor execution. Focus on your area of work and let your team do the same in theirs. To acknowledge failure is the first step towards success. Lastly, remember, we experience failure within the first year of being born.'''
I interrupted him immediately, ''So we are born failures?!''
''As a child you try to walk and talk, yet you fall and mumble. So, yes we all experience failure but after countless attempts and different methods, we succeed. The common element to overcome failure is the combination of hard work and perseverance. While you might say we are born failures, I say we are born succeeding.''
As I stood up to leave, he handed me a stack of empty frames.
''Keep filling these and remember: Fail. Don't fall.''