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OPINION: Don’t let the hard knocks of business get you down

“Fall seven times. Stand up eight.” This Japanese proverb points us toward one of the key ingredients for success in the life of an entrepreneur. We all know that life is full of hard knocks; however, the key is how we respond. As millions of people will enjoy Disney properties and films this year, most won’t know about Walt Disney’s Laugh-O-Gram Films failed business venture or his cartoon character Oswald the Rabbit that he lost to a business partner. Few know that he was fired from his first job at the Kansas City Star where it was noted he lacked creativity. Ironically, The Walt Disney Company later acquired the Kansas City Star when it purchased Capital Cities/ABC. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, is currently one of the richest women in the world. Twelve different publishers rejected her, and even the publisher that finally published her book encouraged her to “get a day job.” These are just a couple of the many examples of people who have clearly demonstrated the trait of perseverance. This is the ability press on, to endure, to overcome adversity to achieve success.

Marlene Hurst from Brookhave founded Hurst Review Services in 1988 as a way to assist nursing students to prepare for and pass the NCLEX, the standardized exam that each state board of nursing uses to determine whether or not a candidate is prepared for entry-level nursing practice. Hurst, a nurse and nurse instructor, started the company seeking to meet a basic need of her students to help them pass this important test. Like many start-up businesses, Hurst’s company started small and evolved. She began teaching a few classes, and as the demand grew she saw the opportunity to turn this into a full-time business.

In order to grow the business, she needed to call on nursing schools to allow her to offer her program to the students. As a new and unknown company, she faced many rejections in her attempts to expand the program. She told me, “I just never heard the word ‘no.’ I would try to learn from each rejection on how I could do better.” Indeed, she did not take no for an answer, and more and more schools allowed her to bring her Hurst Review Services to their students. For many years, she lived on the road bringing her wit and wisdom to students and helping them achieve a 98 percent pass rate on the NCLEX. About five years ago, she added Dr. Paul Johnson to her team to run the company, and he has continued the outstanding growth of the company, which now includes the ability to do online reviews.

Today, Hurst Review Services is a multi-million dollar enterprise and utilizes over 75 instructors and will conduct over 400 live seminars this year. The company is one of the largest nursing review providers in the country and has trained nurses from over 800 different nursing schools. Marlene could have easily heard the initial “no’s” and shuttered her new company and gone back to her teaching position, but instead she took each “no” and looked for the opportunity. I know that thousands of nurses today are glad she did.

Leadership guru John Maxwell in his book “Failing Forward” offers very practical advice on learning from our experiences and pressing on in spite of failure. He states, “At some point, all great achievers are tempted to believe they are failures. But in spite of that, they persevere. In the face of adversity, shortcomings and rejection, they hold onto self-belief and refuse to see themselves as failures.” Obviously, blind optimism is not the goal, but to see each failure as a learning opportunity. True leaders in any field utilize this cycle of trial, feedback, review and adjustment. The challenge is to avoid discouragement and to continue to focus unrelentingly on the goals ahead. Particularly in this challenging economy, we would all be well served to share in the perseverance and determination exhibited by Hurst and other successful entrepreneurs.

Martin Willoughby is a business lawyer in Jackson. He can be reached at mew@msbusinesslaw.com.

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