Business success better the second time around

Given the slight chances of success, it’s a marvel anyone ever starts a business at all. One-third of new ventures close within two years, half within five years, and so on: only one in four is still around 15 years after opening day. But all that failure may offer its own reward, according to new research from a pair of economists from Stanford and the University of Michigan. They found that failed entrepreneurs are far more likely to be successful in their second go-around, provided they try again.
The entrepreneurship studies that grab headlines tend to focus on investor-backed, technology startups. Those types of firms aren’t the norm. Most new businesses are still small, local retailers. To understand how these enterprises fare, Francine Lafontaine and Kathryn Shaw studied the successes and failures of retail entrepreneurs in Texas from 1990 to 2011. Over the 21-year-period, 2.4 million retail businesses opened and 2.2 million closed. Three out of every four were founded by first-time business owners.
Lafontaine and Shaw found that the Texas retailers were less successful than the national average for small businesses: One in four closed after a year; half after two. What happened next was telling. Of the first-time entrepreneurs whose businesses closed quickly, the overwhelming majority—71 percent—didn’t bother to try again. But the tenacious 29 percent who did were more likely to be successful the second, third, and even tenth time around. Somewhat paradoxically, their success rate increased with their number of past failures.
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