­­Rejection in Business

The Gong Show
The echo of the great gong signals a failure to impress your audience.

If you’re in business, you’re familiar with failure. A new survey indicates that you’re probably taking it in stride.

Long before there was an American or Canadian Idol, there was a program called The Gong Show.

Amateur entertainers would appear – singing, dancing, maybe even juggling – and if the audience didn’t think they were very good, the smirking host would strike a giant gong.

The gong signaled that they had been rejected and had to slink off stage to the sound of derisive audience laughter. It was a cynical, brutal show, eerily similar to the Roman Coliseum and its thumbs-up, thumbs-down culture.  

Well, recently I was gonged in my business; while trying to nurture a sale, I was rejected. Again.

In small business, rejection is no stranger.

Seattle online business group Biznik recently revealed statistics from a member survey. (The membership spans the Cascadia region, which includes B.C.) Eighty-six per cent of members currently run their own businesses, and 70 per cent of members are one- or two-person shows, meaning they’re micro-businesses.

If there is anything a micro-business operator knows, it’s rejection.

You’re too small. You’re too expensive. You’re not quite what we want. What do you do that everyone else doesn’t do? Your price is too high (or low – signalling that you’re desperate). I don’t like your style.

Those complaints are all the equivalent of the smirking host banging the gong. It’s rejection – telling you you’re not good enough and that you don’t fit their perceptions of what you should be. You’re the ugly one at the high school dance.

There are many reasons for this gonging. Sometimes you aren’t quite good enough, or have misunderstood the market, or done one of the countless other things that can go wrong in business. Sometimes, it’s just that the person who gonged you is a jerk.

But that doesn’t ease the pain any. Being gonged hurts.

However, another statistic from Biznik’s member survey tells me that these people are living with it. Some 72 per cent of Biznik members have been running their businesses since before the recession, which means they’re closing in on five years. So they have probably experienced the hurt of gonging many times.

But they have also recovered. Sure, they may have hid out, maybe even wallowed in depression for a while. But then they put themselves out there and tried again.

They say that failure makes you stronger. I guess they’re right.