How do we respond to failure as changemakers?

In a previous blog, we met Aron and Louise Mercer, an amazing couple who are innovative leaders of change in their respective fields. They were our guest speakers at our recent Imagine Series Event.

Aron has founded and advised several social enterprise start-ups. 

Louise is a forward-thinker with leadership experience in insurance, financial services and not-for-profit industries.

Both Louise and Aron are great friends of Seed and valued members of our community. 

One of the tough things for the Mercers has been dealing with failure, businesses that haven’t taken off. They are open about that experience, “There is much about business you can control. And much of it that you can’t,” explains Aron.

“You can control business model design, your levels of persistence to see something succeed, your energy levels/creativity/tenacity, your commitment to execution. You can’t control things like luck, timing, Facebook changing its T&Cs right before launch, marital breakdowns, and a thousand other things.”

“So, a key tip for us is that through the ups and downs of business you will always need to keep choosing who you are, who and what you are faithful to, and what you will stand for (especially when in personal discomfort),” says Louise.

“Pain is your best indicator for learning. If you can train yourself to react to pain with introspection, with seeking to make sense of things, with seeking to learn, it can be incredibly rich.

“Keep perspective,” says Louise, “Failing in a start-up isn’t all that bad! Not in the scheme of things. No one died, no one was bankrupted. Aron and I still count our time working on MakeSomeChange as better than a PhD in entrepreneurship. We learnt incredible amounts from the experience.”

Also key to their ability to self-reflect and learn from failure is their Christian faith. “There is no doubt that our faith is fundamental. For both of us, the fact that we were even interested in social enterprises is surely a work of God in both us. Our faith often serves like an internal compass helping us to have a true North — it’s our hope as we venture into the unknown, it reminds us what is important when navigating difficult waters, and it’s our focus for gratitude.”

However, there are times when business immersion distracts them from God. “For me, that particularly happens when things are going well and pride or greed risk getting in the way,” says Aron.

“We all want to be able to say we have run the race, we have kept the faith (2 Tim 4:7-8),” says Louise. “But there are two things to note about that: firstly, it doesn’t say that every step along the way will be easy, that you won’t doubt or forget God along the way. But you need to finish faithful, and that is related to the second point: you must be running. Not watching, not spectating. So, keep running, keep trying, persevere. Your faithfulness comes through the tumult of the journey itself. (Hebrews 12:1-2)”.


Kara Martin is Project Leader with Seed, lecturer with Mary Andrews College, author of Workship: how to use your work to worship God.

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