Cerie White

How To Use Failure For Success: With Cherie White

It doesn’t always matter how much we plan ahead. Even if we want something specific — such as career success — life is a process of trial and error, and failure is going to happen at times. And that’s perfectly okay! 

Unfortunately, in a business setting, failure can seem to have greater consequences than in some other areas of life. So, the question is: is it possible to turn those failures into more than just setbacks? When challenges bubble up, can you move past them and fail forward instead of falling down? And might there be a “secret formula” to career success that can break your business out of a try-fail cycle?

The answer (to all of these questions) is yes. Let’s look at how — with the right information and great coaching — your business can continue to grow and prosper despite experiencing roadblocks. 

How can failure lead to success?

To understand how failure leads to success, we’re going to drill deep and look at one individual business owner in particular. Then, we’ll extrapolate lessons from her experience, and provide universal insights that can bolster your business success. 

Steadfast Developments CEO Cherie White oversees real estate developments that mitigate poverty through preventative models. Despite her success in offering affordable housing and resources to community members in need, Cherie is having financing issues. 

While she’s had some luck enticing investors to back her business, Cherie needs more engagement to ramp up her operations. She feels like a failure for being unable to provide as much as she wants for the communities she serves. What can she do to succeed despite facing such a significant roadblock?

What is failing forward? 

In this particular instance, it’s important for Cherie to consider why she’s failing to attract investors. What kinds of questions is she asking them during her meetings? And what happens during the process that stops investors from buying in? Here are some ways Cherie can reexamine her situation to increase her odds of succeeding in a business setting: 

  • Look at why failure and success occur: Whether business owners succeed or fail, they rarely look to understand the reasons why. Instead of analyzing the processes and systems that lead to greater success, they simply accept good results, which leads to misunderstandings and frustrations when failures happen. In this instance, Cherie needs to look at what made her pitches to investors successful in order to replicate that process with future backers.

  • Target the right audience: Sometimes failure is a result of marketing to the wrong audience. Bringing the right people to the table with careful forethought and research — from historical backgrounds to core values and mission statements — can help mitigate failure and move the “success needle” in the right direction.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask what went right or wrong: It might sound unorthodox, but it never hurts to ask clients, colleagues, customers or coworkers what went right or wrong. In Cherie’s case, returning to the investors she succeeded with and asking them what went well during her presentation could be a valuable way to learn more about her future approaches to additional investors.

  • Look for patterns: Analyzing patterns between successful and unsuccessful tactics is key to breaking out of bad habits. What similarities or differences are there between projects that went well and didn’t go well? What was the mindset going into those projects, and how were company leaders thinking when they approached them? Was the expectation to succeed or fail? And what was the relationship to the client, customer or coworker when that expectation was formed?

  • Capture tangible and intangible data: Most business owners don’t distinguish between the types of data they collect. But it pays to keep in mind that there are actually two kinds of data when it comes to failing forward: tangible data, and intangible data. Tangible data points involve the aspects of a project or presentation that can be pointed at and studied. Tangible data involves questions such as, “What did I do? How did the project turn out? Who was involved? What kind of business did we conduct?” Conversely, intangible data involves information that might be less straightforward and more difficult to discern. Intangible data involves asking questions like: “How did I connect with my audience? How did I feel about the process? How confident was I?” Asking both of these types of questions can help you simultaneously fail forward and strive toward better career success. 

By engaging with all of these details, Cherie should be able to get a lot more out of her failure than frustration. The lesson, then, is plain: in order to succeed, it’s important to get the most out of every failure possible. Put simply, failing forward is the notion that every failure teaches you something that can then be used to succeed. 

That’s the secret recipe to greater career success. 

How to fail better through coaching 

“Failing better” might not sound like something you’re interested in doing — but since all of us fail sometimes, it pays to fail better than to not prepare for failure at all. If you’re looking for ways to fail forward and enjoy greater career success, then you might be the perfect candidate for a coaching program.  

An FOM Coach can prepare you to get the most out of every failure so that each setback becomes less and less disastrous. By training you to navigate failure with grace and ease, your coach will help you reach your goals more effectively — whether they’re business goals, personal goals or both. 

Interested in more tips on failing forward, career success and coaching? Check out Frame of Mind Coaching™ for details on our coaching philosophy, success strategies and more.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Kim Ades: Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades and I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching, and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast, where we invite leaders from all over the world to get coached live and in person, right on the show.

[00:00:19] Today, I have a guest from Vancouver. Her name is Cherie White, and she comes to us from a company called Steadfast Developments. Cherie, welcome.

[00:00:29] Cherie White: Hi! Thanks so much. It's great to be here.

[00:00:32] Kim Ades: So you're in Vancouver. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do? What kind of developments are you into? And tell us a little bit about you personally as well. Married, divorced kids? Give us the tea!

[00:00:46] Cherie White: All right. Great. So, I live in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. It's known as one of Canada's poorest postal codes. I would describe myself, from a business perspective, as a social justice land developer. We are focusing on mitigating poverty through a preventative model. So, we are trying to focus on women particularly, and families in the neighborhoods, before they get to a homelessness situation.

[00:01:18] And so, we do that through six main ways. One is providing affordable housing. One is through education. One is through social enterprise. I mean, I can go on, but basically we're a holistic land development company. We're not just looking at housing, but we recognize-- as someone who's lived in the neighborhood for 18 years, we recognize what the problem is and why wouldn't developers come in and just build houses, why the neighborhood isn't changing.

[00:01:53] So we really want to revitalize this neighborhood and I've done a lot of research around successful revitalization neighborhoods. And so I'm excited to get going on those projects.

[00:02:06] Kim Ades: So, I do want to jump into asking you about your greatest challenge, but before we do, I'm a little bit curious to learn about what you've discovered. So, what is typically missing from land development where development companies are just putting up houses? What's missing? Why are those formulas not enough for these communities?

[00:02:31] Cherie White: Yeah. It's because our government is looking at it from a housing first perspective. The idea is once you have a home, then all the other things will fall into place. Now, there is some truth to that, but our company is looking at it from a community first perspective. And I get that because when I found myself into trouble, it wasn't my home that kept me together, it was my family and my community. And so I think that if you're only looking at housing first, you're missing a big, big piece of the puzzle.

[00:03:05] Kim Ades: Okay, good. I'm very glad I asked you that question. So tell us, what is your greatest challenge? You alluded to getting in trouble in the past. You're in my interest.

[00:03:15] Cherie White: [Laughs]

[00:03:15] Kim Ades: But what's going on now?

[00:03:17] Cherie White: Yeah. I seem to have a PhD of getting myself into trouble, but right now I have got myself out of trouble. But one of my greatest challenges seems to be the finance piece.

[00:03:31] So I have a very clear vision. I have a wonderful team, and I know there's three pieces that you need for success, and it's that financial piece. And so I seem to be drawing the right people, I seem to be doing the qualifying that I need and I think my challenge is to... when people say, "yes, I'm interested", I find a lot of investors say yes, and then maybe five days later, they're like, "yeah, no, this isn't for me".

[00:04:02] So I think there must be something wrong. I must be doing something wrong because I noticed a pattern in that.

[00:04:12] Kim Ades: Here's a question for you. Are you collecting data?

[00:04:19] Cherie White: In some senses, yes. So when it comes to doing research around successful revitalization projects, I have spreadsheets, I've been collecting that data, so that I'm up to date and current and know what's going on in that industry. So, yes. I guess the short answer is yes.

[00:04:43] Kim Ades: So I'm going to ask a different question, or the same question associated with a different endeavor. Do you have any current investors or are you still looking?

[00:04:53] Cherie White: The answer is yes. So yes, I have some current investors and yes, I'm still looking.

[00:04:59] Kim Ades: Okay. Good. Both on both fronts. Okay. So when I ask about collecting data, what I'm really interested in is the data you're collecting with respect to your investor acquisition process.

[00:05:11] Cherie White: Okay.

[00:05:12] Kim Ades: Like religious data.

[00:05:14] Cherie White: Okay. So... No [Laughs]

[00:05:17] Kim Ades: Okay. So what I mean by that is, who are you approaching? Let's figure out some things about them. What makes you approach them? What the experience was like? And then when they say no, I'm interested in an after meeting that really helps us understand why the no was a no.

[00:05:43] Cherie White: Right.

[00:05:44] Kim Ades: Right? The flip side is also true is understanding why the yes was a yes. Who these people are and really understanding why the yes was a yes. So my experience in coaching is that people aren't often familiar with why they succeed and why they don't, because they're not collecting data. They're not analyzing the process that leads them to success and the process that leads them to failure or the gap that is missing in the process that ends up creating failure.

[00:06:17] Cherie White: That makes a lot of sense.

[00:06:18] Kim Ades: So they do it haphazardly. And they're not really paying attention to "here are the elements for success and here's what I missed in this process". And perhaps you're targeting the wrong people. Perhaps you're missing this piece in the presentation, perhaps you're not bringing the right people to the table, perhaps you're not tapping into the investors' value set or their beliefs. Perhaps you're not looking at their history well enough.

[00:06:47] Maybe you're not connecting the dots between their interest in your projects. Maybe you're not doing your homework well enough about who this investor is. I'm not sure. I don't know. I don't have the data. But my kind of directive to you is to say it had some level of success, let's really critically analyze the success. Who were the investors that bought in? Why did they buy in?

[00:07:12] I would go back to them and say, "I want to study this, help me figure this out". Because when you say there's a pattern, there are always patterns, patterns to failure and patterns to success. And a lot of times our blind spots are in not noticing the patterns. And I would suggest to you that there are two kinds of patterns. One are hardcore databased patterns that say, "when I have these elements in my presentation, I win. And when I miss these elements, I don't win as much or it's harder to win".

[00:07:51] But there's another type of pattern that I'm interested in is the thinking patterns of leaders as they attempt to reach their [00:08:00] goals.

[00:08:01] Cherie White: Right.

[00:08:02] Kim Ades: Right? And so, when we coach leaders, we're looking for those patterns. Patterns of success and the patterns of failure and what thinking led to the success and what thinking led to the failure. So in addition to examining the data of both cases, right? "Every time I approached these people, they said no, what's common about these people? What was my approach? What did I miss? What did I do? And then every time I approached these people, they said yes, what's common about these people? What was my approach? What did I do?"

[00:08:34] I also want you to start to capture a different kind of data, which was "what was my thinking when I approached this group over here versus this group over here? How did I go into these meetings? How was I feeling when I went into these meetings? Did I expect to lose? Did I expect to win? What was my relationship like with this group versus that group?"

[00:08:58] And not only examine the facts, but examine your internal process to say, "did I show up differently? Was I more confident? Was I less confident?

[00:09:11] Cherie White: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense.

[00:09:13] Kim Ades: Did I interact differently in this situation versus that situation? In what situations do I feel like I'm winning more and why is that?

[00:09:23] Cherie White: That's fantastic. I now want to go back and analyze all of that [laughs] because you're right, I've had successes and I've had failures and there are times where I'm like, I thought this was a shoe in, I did my research, I was ready to go, positive thoughts... And then it just, like, in the middle of it, crash and burn, like, I just want it out of the room. [Laughs]

[00:09:52] And then there were times where I thought, "you know what? This is a waste of my time. Yeah, I'm prepared. I do everything else" and I've gotten a win, you know? So, I want to definitely thank you. That's fantastic advice. And I want to go back and look at those wins and failures. Yeah, definitely. Thank you.

[00:10:15] Kim Ades: Yeah. And again, remember that there are two types of data points you're looking for, right? The tangible data points: what did I do? How did I approach this? Who were the people? What were their profiles like? What were their interests like? What business are they in? And all that kind of thing. So the tangible data.

[00:10:33] But also the intangible data. Which was: how did I connect with these people? How did I feel about this? How was my level of confidence? What was I telling myself before I walked into this meeting? And that's where journaling plays a really, really important role is to actually spend a few minutes before every meeting to capture your thoughts.

[00:10:54] What you're also comparing in terms of data is, how did I walk into this meeting? How did I feel about it? How did I feel about them? How did I feel about myself? Start comparing that data as well, and looking for patterns there too.

[00:11:08] Cherie White: Fantastic.

[00:11:10] Kim Ades: Amazing. Thank you! That was a good one. I liked that one. For those of you listening, you know, there are clues that we leave behind in both our success and our failure, and you want to start to pay attention to the patterns that you leave behind and the clues to try to understand why things work out the way they do, both the failures and the successes.

[00:11:33] So go back and analyze the data. Sometimes the data is tangible. It's in your numbers, it's in your spreadsheets, it's in your Excel work files, but sometimes the data is actually stored in your brain. And what you want to do is find a way to capture the feeling, the emotion, the thoughts, the experience you're having as you're winning and as you're losing, and start to pick up the patterns that happen in that data as well.

[00:12:00] That's what we do at Frame of Mind Coaching is we analyze data that comes from your thinking, from your emotions, and from your experiences. So that's kind of the recommendation that I'm giving to Cherie today.

[00:12:12] For those of you who are listening, if you have a challenge that you want to discuss on the podcast, please reach out to me. We're always looking for willing and interesting guests.

[00:12:23] My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.

[00:12:27] If at the same time, you have a challenge that perhaps you're not so willing to discuss on the podcast, but you want to discuss privately, reach out to me as well.

[00:12:36] My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.

[00:12:40] Thanks so much Cherie, for joining us today.

[00:12:43] Cherie White: Thank you!

[00:12:45] Kim Ades: Bye guys. See you next week. Have a great day!

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