My Big Failures Cost Me My Reputation and My Business. Here’s What I Learned and How I’ve Bounced Back


dhar mann entrepreneur guest blog post on lessons learned from failures

“This column was originally published on on 11/26/18″

Imagine trying to succeed as an entrepreneur after experiencing a big failure. Your entire industry just crashed. Your highly anticipated product launch was a total flop. Your biggest client or affiliate ditched you. Your funding fell through and you can’t make payroll. Your right-hand person just quit. You just suffered a massive data breach and your online reputation is tarnished.

Sounds stressful, right? The above is just a small list of the many major failures I’ve experienced in my journey as an entrepreneur. But, I didn’t let any of that stop me from turning $600 in starting capital (all the money I had at the time) into the eight-figure business I run today.

Here are my five best insights that came from failing my way to success.


1. Reputation is worth more than money.

I’ll never forget when my first boss, just after I’d graduated college, asked me to put together a proposal to win a lucrative contract for his business. He asked me to load up the proposal with lots promises that would considerably drive up our operational costs but would greatly improve our service.

The client was so impressed with our proposal they awarded us the contract on spot. I left that meeting feeling very proud and excited. When we left, I asked my boss “Should we get started on making all the improvements right away?” and he responded, “That was just to win the contract, we’re not actually going to do them.”

I was devastated. To me, we made a promise, and that promise needed to be honored. But, I looked up to my boss because he was my mentor, so over time I began to normalize that behavior and started saying or doing whatever it took to make a buck.

After many years of overpromising and underdelivering, I had earned myself a well-deserved reputation of being a fraud. That damaged reputation cost me a lot more than whatever money I made from my short-term thinking, and it took me many years to reverse the damage I had caused myself in order to succeed today.

The lesson: Money doesn’t always last, but your reputation does. A good reputation takes a long time to build. Its foundation is laid by consistent performance, not promises. If built correctly, your reputation will be the best investment you can make, and it will always pay long-term dividends.

2. Don’t build a minimum viable product.

Most entrepreneurs have heard of the lean startup technique called “minimum viable product” or MVP. The idea is to create a product that’s just good enough to launch and improve as you go.

I took this MVP approach to create an online makeup school. I partnered with some of the top beauty influencers on Instagram and YouTube to teach the content. Instead of getting hung up on developing the best learning platform, my idea was to roll out an early product to get feedback from students and to improve it as we went along.

The launch was a huge success. Sales were astronomical. But, they were short-lived. We got buried by negative online reviews from students disappointed with the learning platform. Even as we improved, the reviews stuck with us, and eventually we had to shut down the product and pivot to an entirely different concept. After that experience, we’ve been taking our time to build quality products, and the results have been outstanding.

The lesson: It’s important to take time to build the right product. Products may be easy to improve but online reputation isn’t. Negative reviews can carry with you for a long time. And in a digital world where online reviews and word-of-mouth are everything, they can quickly destroy a business.

3. Nail it before you scale it,

In 2010, I launched what CNN dubbed “The Walmart of Weed.” It was a 15,000-square foot “marijuana superstore” that sold all of the cultivation supplies needed to grow medical marijuana. The grand opening drew so much attention across the globe that my inbox was full of thousands of emails from entrepreneurs wanting to franchise the concept.

Excited by the interest, I got so focused on rolling out the concept nationally that I forgot to make sure the business worked locally. I succeeded in opening many stores, but what I didn’t anticipate is as each new store opened, the last store closed. After numerous store closings, I had to pivot from a retail business to a consulting business just to stay afloat.

The lesson: It took Sam Walton 25 years to go from one dime store to 38 Walmart stores. Today, Walmart has over 8,500 stores worldwide. That’s because it takes time to dial in a successful business model. Focus on building a strong foundation before even thinking about the empire you’ll build on top of it.

4. Practice radical transparency.

I grew up in a conservative Indian household where there wasn’t always a lot of open communication. The lack of communication often created division, and it was uncomfortable telling my family what I was really thinking or what was happening in my life. What I didn’t realize was that I was letting those same patterns of closed communication from childhood spill over into my businesses.

I learned this when I decided to do an anonymous company poll to get a pulse on how my team was feeling. A few people responded saying they felt there was a general mistrust within the team and that they felt in the dark as to what was happening around them. Those sentiments echoed exactly how I felt growing up. I was guilty of building a company culture that stemmed from my family culture without even knowing it.

Today, I communicate openly about our finances, failures, short-term goals, long-term plans and much more. Almost nothing is considered sacred. Since adopting this policy of radical transparency, the entire team feels so much more comfortable discussing issues openly and working together as a team.

The lesson: If you’re not transparent with your team about everything, it will create mistrust and eventually lead to division. The best leaders are radically transparent with their team members. They inspire employee loyalty and honesty by being an example of those qualities.

5. Don’t fake it until you make it.

In my late twenties, I had gained a lot of notoriety on social media as an “Instagram baller.” I was driving around in flashy cars and living in a four-story Hollywood Hills mansion. I had a decent amount of money, but nowhere near the rate I was spending it. My thinking was that if I could just keep up with the high-flying image long enough, soon business opportunities would come pouring my way.

The exact opposite happened. People thought I was so rich that I didn’t need the money. Instead of wanting to partner with me, they wanted to profit from me. I was spending so much trying to keep up my image that I couldn’t sustain it and ended up going broke.

After losing it all, I decided to be honest and open about my story. The market rewarded me ten-fold and my engagement with my audience deepened considerably.

The lesson: Today, information travels so quickly that it’s impossible to keep up a facade. The market will see right through it. People value authenticity. Keep it real with others and you’ll accomplish your goals much quicker.

“Copyright 2018 by Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.”

16 Comments for "My Big Failures Cost Me My Reputation and My Business. Here’s What I Learned and How I’ve Bounced Back"

  • accountant

    I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something too few people are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy that I came across this during my hunt for something concerning this.

    Posted Jul 4th
  • Peter Allen

    And here is hoping you stay humble and this venture will continue to thrive. God bless you and your family.

    Posted Mar 21st
  • Mary Boakye Antwi

    I’m so grateful to be part of you, I watch your videos and am learning much things in it,my life is not the same like before because i don’t worry about problems that i can not solve,Thank you dhar for doing this great evangelistic work to people God bless.

    Posted Jan 29th
  • Meet Jain

    Your Article if spread across world can save many beginners future.
    Appreciate the opportunity to wish Laura and you for your happy and successful future.

    Posted Sep 16th
  • Glori

    I can’t tell you how many times, I felt out of the loop. My morale plummeted especially as an administrator- specifically Director of Programs. It was like I was qualified to do the work but not qualified to be a part of the process that guides, drives and delivers the targeted outcomes. Many could empathize and even today as I catch up with past colleagues, friends or even family, all they talk about is communication issues, trust battles due to lack of transparency- in some cases the demise of services and programs. This breaks my heart because our the young people we serve are negatively impacted. Thank you for sharing your encouraging and motivational video messages. I do not know if you believe in God but I do and I cannot help but think sense that the great I AM planted some seeds of faith in you and you have learned to water them. Keep sharing and posting. Congrats on the engagement! Take care G

    Posted Sep 12th
  • Baljit Saini

    These are really amazing insights brother. I can relate to some of the experiences you had. Thanks for sharing and wish you the best in your future endeavors!

    Posted Apr 29th
  • James Woods Marshall

    We designed some great things together during the WeGrow days. You were always good and fair with me. I respected you for that given everything you were dealing with, but I especially respect how you’ve developed as a person.

    Posted Apr 15th
  • scr888

    With the need comes the desire of invention. And assure behavior
    is continued, (which was learned at some previous – fearsome!
    – point). This is valid for a great deal of of pieces.

    Posted Feb 14th
  • scr888

    With the need comes the desire of invention. And assure
    behavior is continued, (which was learned at some previous – fearsome!
    – point). This is valid for a great deal of of pieces.

    Posted Feb 14th
  • Alondra A

    Always inspiring and great advice ❤️✨☝?

    Posted Feb 13th
  • Zuleima

    Very good insight. I’m trying to start my own baking shop and i’ve been testing my recipes over and over. One day ??

    Posted Feb 13th
  • Kelly Barry

    Love all your posts, videos, blogs! Such reality.

    Valentine’s Contest Answers:
    Who: My 2 sons
    As an only parent, I’ve solely focused on them since their father left 7 years ago.

    What: An action packed weekend getaway-history, museums, trampoline park, indoor basketball, swimming, ice skating…

    Why: I couldn’t imagine a Valentine’s Day ♥️ without them… Although I know as they get older, it’s inevitable. We haven’t had a vacation in 2 years.

    I love your blog. Being true to a product or brand that you promote is key to being believable.

    Posted Feb 13th
  • Elisa Hanley

    Reputation is absolutely worth more than money! Air Force motto starts with integrity first. Although I have been out for years, I still carry this with me. Don’t expect me to tell you something and not follow through. Anyone in business that constantly fails their clients will earn the reputation of doing so, lose their clients and eventually fail. Integrity goes a long way!

    Posted Feb 13th
  • Heather Witherow

    This is my entry for the Dhar & Laura giveaway. Thankyou for the opportunity! ?
    My mom would be my date. For the past two years, I’ve been sick, and forced to undergo a lot of tests, and they only now found the problem. She’s been my number one supporter through it all: Caring for me when I was so sick I couldn’t get up, making foods that worked with the strict diets the doctors put me on, providing moral support. She deserves to be treated to a fancy dinner and shopping spree because she is a super hero to me.

    My favorite tip from your article is about being authentic and choosing a partnership that best represents you and what you do.

    Posted Feb 13th
  • Debra Esco

    I love liveglam.
    My husband and my 19 month old son! I would buy us a couple of pizzas and of course some chocolate cake. The rest of the money I will spend on a careseat, stroller and basic necessities for our baby one the way. We are so blessed and excited that we are pregnant we found out 2-10-19 and due 10-19-19 ♥️, the only way our valentines could get better is this amazing opportunity to win, and relieve some of the financial worries. In regards to Dhar’s article, I follow many influencers and one thing I see a lot is the endorsement of products once and never again, and like he mentioned this goes along with doing it just for the money as well, as someone who looks up to influencers for insight, it’s frustrating to place our trust in an influencer and spend our hard earned money on products that are promoted and then they never use them again. Dhar & Laura, you’re a beautiful and inspiring couple and I wish you many blessings. Thank you both for this opportunity.

    Posted Feb 13th
  • foloren torium

    I believe you have mentioned some very interesting points, thankyou for the post.

    Posted Jan 26th

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