By Paul-Miki Akpablie, co-founder & CEO at Akos Technologies Inc.
As entrepreneurs, we’re often told to embrace failure and learn from our mistakes. But what about rejection? Rejection is something that many of us experience on a regular basis, whether it’s a customer declining to buy our product, an investor passing on our pitch or a potential partner saying no to a collaboration.
As a first-time entrepreneur, rejection can be especially tough to handle. When I founded my first company at the age of 20, I experienced rejection firsthand. Investors told us no, the market was sometimes telling us no and our suppliers were mostly telling us no. It wasn’t easy to embrace rejection at such a young age, but I quickly learned that it was an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey.
Over time, I developed a few tactics that helped me navigate rejection and use it to my advantage. The first was to intentionally put myself in positions where I would receive more “nos.” While it’s natural to want to avoid rejection, seeking it out can actually help you build resilience over time. Just as relationship experts recommend dating tactics that involve putting oneself in situations where rejection is more likely, intentionally seeking out rejections in business can help prepare you for the times when things don’t go as planned.
The second tactic was to try to have fun with rejection and not take it too seriously. When one of my friends received a string of rejections from VCs, he decided to take a shot for every “no” he received. While I don’t necessarily recommend this approach, finding ways to make rejection less daunting can help put things into perspective and reduce stress.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that rejection is not a reflection of your worth as a person or an entrepreneur. While it’s natural to feel discouraged after being turned down, it’s crucial to maintain a growth mindset and view rejection as an opportunity to learn and improve.
So how can young entrepreneurs learn to embrace rejection? Here are a few tips:
1. Seek out rejection: Don’t be afraid to put yourself in situations where rejection is more likely. This could mean cold-calling potential customers, pitching to investors who may not be a perfect fit or applying for opportunities that may be a stretch.
2. Practice resilience: When you do receive a rejection, try to view it as an opportunity to build resilience. Take some time to reflect on what you can learn from the experience and how you can improve for next time.
3. Don’t take it personally: Rejection is a part of the process. Even the most successful entrepreneurs have faced rejection at some point in their careers.
4. Find support: Surround yourself with a supportive network of mentors, advisors and peers who can help you navigate rejection and stay focused on your goals.
5. Maintain a growth mindset: Instead of viewing rejection as a failure, try to see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Ask for feedback from those who have rejected you, and use it to improve your product, pitch or approach.
In conclusion, rejection is an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey. But by learning to embrace it and use it to your advantage, you can build resilience, improve your skills and ultimately become a more successful entrepreneur. So the next time you receive a rejection, remember that it’s not the end of the road—it’s just a detour on the path to success.