Sidney Halpern, Chartered Accountant, Winnipeg, MB, CYBF Mentor

My biggest mistakes and the lessons I learned

The word “mistake” is often misunderstood and it is very subjective. In my opinion, mistakes are better defined as learning opportunities instead of failures.

Based on my benchmarks the only true mistakes I made in business were:

  • Entering into associations with people who did not have a good record of integrity, honesty, empathy and relationships
  • Not taking sufficient risks in business and being too conservative in decision-making. Risk-taking based on good analysis of the downsides are important to one’s business and personal life

Difficult decisions

  • The most difficult decisions I had to make where about when to terminate employees, since I was empathetic to their personal situations. However, our business grew stronger as strengthened because we strengthened our team of personnel by removing a possible obstacle for growth.  In most cases the person terminated found a more appropriate career so we both were winners.  It also taught me empathy to our staff
  • A second difficult decision was in turning down business because it was not consistent with our corporate strategy of diversification and risk. However, making this decision made our business stronger
  • A third difficult decision was in closing down factories when they no longer served the corporate mission

Failure is success

  • Failure is usually defined as not meeting an objective, which is very subjective
  • What is normally called “failure” could be considered “research and development”. By researching and trying new things over and over again, one creates new ideas, products, methodologies that lead to successful outcomes
  • In my business I seldom used the word “failure” and in fact, I suggest removing it complete from your vocabulary. As a leader, I always tried to instill confidence in staff to keep trying new things
  • Success is going from “failure” (research) to “failure” (research) without losing enthusiasm

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