Last week I was invited to celebrate the two-year anniversary of a friend’s solo business launch. At the very same party, I spent time speaking with a friend who reported on the failure of her last business partnership and the hopeful launch of her own solo one. While the two stories seem to be on opposite ends of a spectrum, they are both business success stories.
It’s what these two businesswomen shared with me are what I am mindful of this Monday morning when I ask myself, What is it that we do to claim success?
Imagine this scene: There are two families at the beach on a hot summer day. One family lays out a blanket, lathers on the sunscreen, and occasionally forages in a cooler packed with food and drink. The family looks relaxed, adults and kids alike. The other family appears to be in distress. One of the kids forgot to pack a swimsuit. The drinks, we learn, are still sitting on the kitchen counter at home. And someone, not naming names here, forgot the sunscreen. The adults are bickering over who is to blame. The kids are starting to whine about how thirsty they are.
It doesn’t take much to imagine that in the workplace as at the beach, proper planning plays a positive role in reducing stress and meeting everyone’s needs. Will your project manager be on vacation next week? Good for him! Make sure that his clients know who will be handling their orders so that their email requests are routed accordingly. Will the IT engineer upgrade to the latest version of the translation management system? Good for her! Make sure that current projects have been backed up and that any to-be-affected personnel have other tools to work with.
The challenges of the average translation office are usually well known—whether related to personnel, technology, or seasonal project flows. It’s the rare situation that’s truly an emergency. Map it out, play it out, and work it out.
Here’s a caveat to the above: because we are not perfect creatures, perfect plans do not exist. It is possible to have thought through everything and, nevertheless, to encounter the other typical problem: simple human error.
Let’s return to the beach.
The family that did not plan happen to know that there’s a family-owned shop just on the other side of the dune that caters to the beach’s tourists. The staff sell drinks. They sell food. They sell sunscreen. In fact, because they are in the business of anticipating both the challenges and the desires of the everyday beach visitor, they even offer beach umbrellas, water toys for kids, and even postcards so that you can write home to friends about the vacation fun (and conveniently ignore the rest).
Just as in the workplace, you accrue steep costs when you have to find alternate and immediate solutions to ignored or mishandled challenges. You will pay in stress. You will pay for the convenience of nearby support. However, and this is important, this error like any other is not the same as suffering a complete defeat. You don’t need to pack your dreams of a successful day into the car and head home to stew in your anger and frustration that you didn’t get everything right the first time.
Instead, acknowledge your failures when they occur. Ask for support. Take what you’ve learned and what you’ve gained in resources and claim a new beginning.
Acknowledge Successful Steps
(not just the destination)
At the end of the afternoon, two beach families will head home. One family will have had a fairly carefree day, perhaps with a bit too much sun for one of the family’s members but, still, a good day. The other family suffered some early stresses but, in pulling in supplies from the local shop, recovered to enjoy an equally carefree afternoon.
It may not be this afternoon. And it might not be tomorrow. Success may take its time. But at the end of the day, you’ll be better served by focusing on what you did today and what you can do for tomorrow then on focusing only on all that went wrong.
As in the case of the second friend that I mentioned at the start of this piece, the failure of her last business still stings. But that’s not going to stop her. She will take the lessons learned—both the good and the bad of them—and look to her new work with a positive (albeit critical) eye.
Be glad for today at the beach. Return tomorrow.