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Plan for Failure on Your Road to Success

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The quality that separates success from failure is the ability to keep moving forward in the face of failure — or even many failures. We speak from experience when it comes from overcoming failure. For every success we’ve had in our business, there are probably 10 failures to go with it. We’re not ashamed of that in the least. We’ve come to understand that the failures are an essential part of our growth.

We’ve created a multimillion-dollar company and brought an industry perceived as dark, disreputable and dirty more into the mainstream. Our company, Club Tattoo, is a chain of luxury tattoo and piercing studios. This success did not come easy. 

Still, quitting has never been an option, even in those times when it seemed we were backed into a corner. If we quit, not only would we lose everything we’d worked so hard for, but we have a passion — even an obsession — for what we’re establishing. Success happens through hard work, endless enthusiasm and moving forward despite the fear. We also believe that in a business context, luck is just being ready when an opportunity comes along.

Other entrepreneurs experiencing bumps in their road to success can learn from the challenges we’ve faced and overcome. Here are a few tips to navigating the tough times.

1. Understand what makes a partner tick

Most people enter a partnership out of fear. They’re scared to take on the risk of whatever business they’re starting alone. Throughout our careers, we’ve had business partnerships and learned from some early ones that went south. Partnering with band members in a rock band and with friends in a recording studio taught us some tough lessons. The biggest contributing causes to the failures involved the lack of a foundation of solid communication, cohesive goals and strategies to reach those goals. Learning to trust in your partner is an essential ingredient in a successful partnership. Stay in your lane and honor your partner’s roles. Make sure those roles are well-defined so that conflicts over boundaries are kept to a minimum.

2. Harness the power of mentorship

We’ve both had mentors that weren’t experts in any one field per se, yet they had more life experience, and their guidance was invaluable. The people we truly feel grateful for are the ones who encouraged us to keep going when we felt like quitting. As busy business owners, we know it’s hard to dedicate the time needed to engage regularly with a mentor. But it’s crucial for small business owners to have one who can get them through the tough times.

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”- Napoleon Hill

3. Communicate a consistent message to your customers

For a business to take hold within a given market, it must communicate a consistent message to its target audience over time. The consistency of your message will reinforce the dependability of your company, build trust from your clients and eventually develop brand loyalty from the consumer. Our message is that we are an upscale “studio” rather than a “parlor,” and our clients can see that we’re different. Pinpoint and focus on the one thing you do better than your competitors. Perfect it, call attention to it and make it “your thing.” When your customers routinely travel past your competitors to get to your business, you have a brand that people are seeking.

4. Realize that challenges are the times in which you learn

Most of us have hit low spots or been overcome with failures that at the time didn’t seem like they could be overcome. It’s the passion and desire of the true entrepreneur that will get them through the rough times. If you’d asked us in 2019 whether we thought we’d ever go out of business, we’d have answered with a resounding “Not a chance.” Then came COVID. When we were forced to close our Club Tattoo studios, we began to understand the economic impact was going to be severe and we needed to formulate a strategy to survive.

Receiving PPP funding from the government was pivotal and enabled us to keep our staff on payroll. We knew from past experience that we had to trust our instincts. We used most of our savings to remodel our studios to make a better and safer work environment. We kept our company’s mission of creating an atmosphere that made people feel safe and comfortable in mind, while focusing on our core concepts: art and expression.

It’s those rough times and failures that are the driving forces that cause successful entrepreneurs to rise above and, over time, become great success stories.

Sean Dowdell is known as the Tattooed Millionaire, which is also the title of his first book (2017). In addition to his role as founder and CEO of Club Tattoo, he is a drummer with Grey Daze. He is a frequent speaker to a variety of audiences and has been featured in Entrepreneur, GQ, Billboard, and on CNBC, A&E and more. Thora Dowdell was formerly in marketing and sales before becoming a business partner with Sean, initially in the music recording industry and later in Club Tattoo. Thora is passionate about empowering women business owners through her story. Together, the husband-wife team have authored the new book, Brand Renegades: Our Fearless Path from Startup to Global Brand (Entrepreneur Press, May 25, 2021). Learn more at www.clubtattoo.com.

Success Advice

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