the ceo magazine, business management
Bob Farrell, CEO, Kewill

In the business world, failure is too often thought of in negative terms. But, failure is a normal, even inevitable, part of any executives’ journey. Mistakes can often be some of the best business lessons learned in disguise. Here are a few tips for how you can start thinking of mistakes as opportunities and embrace failure to improve your business.

Be Upfront

Failure is especially inherent in the technology and software industry. These are industries that require trial and error to drive innovation and implementations that create unique business value.  I make a point to be upfront and tell customers that issues can and almost always will happen with technology related projects. Many times these failures create knowledge and improve the robustness of an implementation. Sales teams hate when I bring this up but it is important if one expects to build strong, trusting relationships with customers. Ultimately, it comes down to having the right processes to deal with problems rapidly and in a way that keeps things on track.  In my world, acknowledging that a software glitch may occur and that we are ready to learn from and deal with it shows our customers that we are strong and realistic.

Be Decisive

Executives are under pressure to make an enormous variety of decisions each day –human resources, spending, the company’s product roadmap or a myriad of other issues. Many of these decisions can be difficult and come with tight deadlines. The bottom line is, on any given day, it’s virtually impossible to get every decision right.

CEOs need to be accountable for their decisions, but they also need to be able to act quickly. They can’t fall victim to “analysis paralysis,” in which, by examining each potential outcome, they delay making any decision.

The most successful executives realize that it’s far better to make the wrong decision and then correct it, rather than be consumed with fear of failure and make no decision at all.  In order to do this, it’s also important to understand the factors that you can and cannot change.

Bounce Back

Companies should put a formal risk mitigation plan in place, which provides a safety net that will prevent big mistakes from having a negative impact on a company. A plan can also ease an executive’s worries when making decisions.

An integral part of a risk mitigation plan should be the ability to quickly identify and react to issues. Once you realize you are moving down the wrong path, you and your business operations team should be agile enough to quickly change course. 

Learn From Your Mistakes

Finally, don’t just sweep mistakes under the rug. Take time to examine the decision that was made, why you made it initially, why it went wrong and what the better decision might have been. That way, each mistake can be a learning experience.

With the hectic pace of today’s always-on work place, decisions are often made on the fly. On the other hand, the huge amount of analytics and data available can be overwhelming and can lead decision-makers to hesitate and not act quickly enough. Executives can learn from their mistakes and create a culture of “failing gracefully” by eliminating the fear of failure, and planning ahead to make sure they are able to quickly identify and recover from errors.


Bob Farrell, CEO and President, brings more than 25 years of broad and diverse international business leadership experience to Kewill. Bob joined the company in October of 2012 to accelerate growth by driving operational improvements and executing on strategies that enable Kewill to extend its leadership position in the global trade and logistics software and solutions markets.


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