The most valuable lesson that changed my life
For some reason in the UK we find it hard to deal with failure. Even the thought comes with a stigma and in general people are reluctant to discuss the subject. In some other countries, failure is not seen as something to be embarrassed or ashamed of. It's just accepted as a part of everyday life and something you can learn from.
If you want to be truly successful in life, then one of the first things to do is understand and accept the concept of failure.
A key characteristic of entrepreneurs is that they are ready and willing to take risks. Of course the best ones minimize the risk and make it a calculated one. But when you do this, you must be open to the fact that things could potentially go wrong along the way.
If you become afraid of failure then it will make you too afraid to take these risks, which in itself can be a fatal business flaw as it hinders progress and development. As many people say, if you don't buy a ticket, you'll never win the lottery.
The majority of business people do not strike gold every time. I have experienced plenty of failures along the way. The real secret of success is not to become disheartened by failure. I have found that the most confident and successful people in business are the ones who have learnt to take failure in their stride.
Rather than being embarrassed or ashamed because you have tried to do something and failed, you should look at what you did and examine why it didn't work. When I invested in the failing sandwich chain Benjys, I went against all my business principles and completed the deal in less than a week.
Despite having very little knowledge of the sector, I thought I could turn it around, especially as it still had a recognisable brand. Six months later I had to hold my hands up and admit it was a lost cause. They say you should never catch a falling knife but that's exactly what happened with Benjys.
The key lesson I took from that was to stick to my belief in proper due diligence and analysing every deal thoroughly. It also reinforced my attitude that if you are going to fail, do it quickly. Once you realise that things aren't going to get any better, it is best to get out while you can, rather than continuing just to try and save face.
I am also a firm believer that success is a journey rather than a destination. We should always be looking at how we do things so they can be even better next time. This also applies if you have been successful – rather than resting on your laurels, keep analysing and look for any areas of improvement.
In other words, you can learn as much from your successes as you can from your failures. When it comes to business, fear and complacency are both equally harmful approaches to take.
James Caan is one of the U.K.'s most successful entrepreneurs, as well as the guest presenter of CNBC's "The Business Class".