Luke Harvey-Parker: leant many valuable lessons from failed ventures.

Luke Harvey-Palmer: learnt many valuable lessons from failed ventures.

Luke Harvey-Palmer knows a lot about closing businesses. Seven years ago he saw the Richard Branson quote “fail fast, fail often”, a philosophy he has lived by on his path to success.

Since 2007 he has launched and closed many businesses, including Healthy Sales, an agency focused on developing a mentally and physically strong sales team and Buzzle, a social media branding and marketing group.

Tuning in to your “gut feel” can be important in deciding whether to close your business. 

Harvey-Palmer also took on a business partner and created online marketing business Seggr. When that partnership failed he relaunched Buzzle, then later joined forces with three entrepreneurs to create digital marketing and strategy agency Four before teaming up with two directors to launch his current venture, Alive.

Harvey-Palmer founded the enterprise four years ago and he says it has enjoyed a four-fold increase in the past 12 months.

He believes Alive's success is thanks to lessons learnt as a result of his now-defunct businesses. This is his advice on knowing when it's time to hold or fold your business.

1.     Have you lost focus?

Harvey-Palmer says losing your business focus is a key sign that it might be time to move on.

“If you find yourself, nine to 12 months in, losing focus on what you're setting out to do and you can't articulate clearly what you set out to do, then to me they are the early warning signs that you haven't created anything of value,” Harvey-Palmer says.

This often happens because an entrepreneur loses focus on the business goals and takes irrelevant jobs out of necessity.

“At first you say 'I'm a social media agency', then after three to six months someone says 'can you do my website?', 'can you do my social media page?'. You take on jobs that are not what you started to do because you need the money.”

That is the time to consider shutting shop, Harvey-Palmer says.

“You lose the passion for it because it's not what you set out to do. What you're really doing is prolonging failure.”

2.     What does your intuition say?

Tuning in to your “gut feel” can be important in deciding whether to close your business.

Harvey-Palmer says intuition is particularly important when dealing with business partners or staff.

“It took me about nine to 12 months to work out that this partner couldn't afford to start a business," he says. "You start to get finely tuned for people.”

Listening to his intuition has worked in walking away from partnerships and finding new partners, investors and opportunities, he says.

“To build a business there has to be other people involved. Those first four to five years I was getting a better gut feel for finding the right people.”

Harvey-Palmer says people with high self-confidence are more likely to trust their intuition.

“Whatever it is that gives you confidence in other areas in your life, do these things as often as you can, because people who are confident with their place on earth have no trouble trusting their gut,” says Harvey-Palmer, who used to be a competitive athlete and prioritises being fit and healthy.

3.     Stay positive

It's important to keep a positive outlook. Closing your business does not have to mean you've failed, it can mean you are creating space for better opportunities.

“You've got to have positive energy both mentally and physically. It's very hard to bounce back from failure if you don't have good energy,” Harvey-Palmer says.

“Persistence, perseverance is all about energy. My mate said, 'Why is it that with all these changes and failure you've had you never give up, you never stop, you never lay down?' It does come naturally a little bit, but that positive energy, it takes focus and curiosity to develop.”

4.     Don't dwell on the past

Once you've decided to close your business, keep your eyes on planning for the future.

“The past is the past. It's about being forward-looking," Harvey-Palmer says. "You can learn from the past but you've got to recognise that not everything in the past is a lesson. Some of it is, but some of it is a waste of time.

“A lesson is not a lesson unless you take it forward. It becomes melancholy, which ties you to the past, which ties you to failure and limits you because you're not applying those lessons in a practical way.”

5.     Know your values

The lessons that Harvey-Palmer learnt through failing fast and failing often have become cornerstone principles to his business Alive.

“This is all relevant to today," he says. "Alive's values are all about focus, curiosity and energy.

“Most businesses fail in the first two years . . . people say, 'If it doesn't work out I can go and get a job'. If you're starting out like that, then you're not an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur never doubts they are going to be a success and that what they are doing is important.”