Bates: How do you deal with failure?

Kay Rial Bates
Kay Rial Bates

If failure is recognized as a necessary component of risk, how do you deal with it?

This was a question asked of me as I prepared for a luncheon during December alongside my fellow chamber officials. Great question. It really had me thinking!

Failure. Who the heck likes it? Not me! Yet, taking risks? I personally like taking educated risks. But risks often involve failure.

Let me tell you a brief story. Many of you readers are aware that the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce and an outstanding committee and city staff produce an event called Fiesta Days. In 2013, our committee had a killer lineup for Fiesta Days. Tickets were selling well, so we eagerly awaited July, the beginning of the event.

Then I received a phone call at the end of June. I was notified by the agent for our national act that the act was pulling out because the lead singer was going in for treatment because of a drug problem.

I was looking at a $25,000 loss in one night. That may not sound like a lot to some, but for the Chamber, $25,000 is almost 10 percent of our annual income – much more if we returned people their ticket money for this rain-or-shine show.

Now, I run the Chamber and am the producer of Fiesta Days, so the buck stops with me. What to do? Failure arrived at my doorstep, and this is how I handled it with a previously developed proven plan.

First of all, I plan for failure in as many areas as I can. Fiesta Days, our example, carries potential risks because of artists pulling out, weather, economy downturn and other concerns, many of which are beyond the producer’s control.

So failure must be planned for, and it was. In previous years, with successful Fiesta Days, the Chamber put aside reserves to cover losses. We were ready for 2013, and pulled in our reserves to cover the budget deficit.

Second, I use a team of counselors. In this case, I sought advice from key people on the Fiesta Days committee, my board chairman and the Northwest Herald staff.

Third, I followed through with confidence in the plan and great advice. In this case, despite not having to, the Chamber returned the money to those who already had bought tickets. As a result, we took the short-term financial loss, yet in the long term, the chamber gained increased credibility with the community.

To review, don’t stop taking risks. This is the only way to grow an organization, event or individual. Take that risk, but make certain it is educated and includes a plan to secure your organization or household. Also, have ready a trusted team who stands by you as you take steps to pull out of the mud and mire. Failure is temporary, but if you have a plan to attack it, you will get through it and grow through the pain.

• • •

• The Chamber is pleased to announce its dinner-dance, the Red Carpet Affair, on Jan. 27.

An all-inclusive event with a live band, the Red Carpet Affair will honor multiple individuals with some of our highest awards.

• A business to consumer company? Plan on being part of the McHenry-Opoly Expo on March 10. Designed to be family-friendly, this event features a scavenger hunt, consumer drawing, entertainment and cost-savvy booths.

• Mixers for January include the Pioneer on Jan. 16 and a Super Bowl party Jan. 30 at Bulldog Ale House. February starts off with the United Way mixer Feb. 6.

• On Jan. 17, WINGs will feature panelists such as police officer Kariann Schuster, business owner and real estate agent Becky Kirchner and state Sen. Pamela Althoff at the Shah Center. The theme is Wishbone, Back Bone and Funny Bone. Probing questions include: How did you get where you are, ambition or luck? How did you accomplish what you were told you couldn’t? And what’s the single best idea you ever had? Let’s learn from these community leaders as we enjoy a gourmet lunch provided by Brunch Cafe. The event kicks off at 11:45 a.m.

• Kay Rial Bates is president of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at 815-385-4300 or visit

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