To uncover how Canadian entrepreneurs view failure, Startup Canada and the TruShield Insurance Entrepreneur Success Advisory Council partnered on a national study. The results reveal insights into how organizations can improve communications and programming to help entrepreneurs avoid and overcome business challenges as they start and scale.

Entrepreneurs do not share one common definition of failure.

  • When asked to describe what failure means to them, more entrepreneurs applied phrases with positive connotations than negative.
  • Responses highlight the need to distinguish between “minor” failures (i.e. everyday challenges and mistakes) and “catastrophic” failures that lead to business demise.
  • Differing opinions are primarily a matter of attitude and mindset.

Entrepreneurs agree failure is often inevitable but not always necessary.

  • When asked if failure is necessary when starting up, 39% said ‘yes,’ 34% said ‘maybe,’ and 27% said ‘no’. This division can be attributed to varying definitions of failure.
  • Many said failure is unavoidable, particularly for those who are innovating within new industries. Those who said ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ believe that while failure is possible, it is not a requirement for success.
  • Overwhelmingly, the possibility of failure does not dissuade entrepreneurs from taking risks: 84% are “very likely” or “likely” to take risks despite the fear of failure.

Finances, market fit and strategy top list of entrepreneur failures.

  • The most common failures experienced by entrepreneurs are lack of finances and financial literacy, product/market fit, strategy, and marketing and sales.
  • Others cited a lack of mentorship, management and HR mistakes, attitude, and knowledge gaps.

Canada can do more to support entrepreneurs through failure.

  • When asked to provide commentary on whether “Canada embraces failure and supports entrepreneurs through failure,” many expressed negative or neutral sentiments.
  • Many believe that while Canada may support entrepreneurs through failure to some extent, much more can be done to help them overcome challenges.

Entrepreneurs recommend the following support measures:

  • A Failure Conference or National Failure Workshop Series that provides mentorship, expertise, and education in a judgement-free space to help prevent failures before they happen.
  • Failure Support Groups to help entrepreneurs navigate and overcome business challenges as they experience them.
  • Review existing programs and marketing campaigns relevant to the topic of failure to ensure they are solution-based. Communications related to failure should raise awareness of common business mistakes and provide strategies for avoiding and overcoming them.

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