How we bounced back from failures in our careers


A mistake. Failure. A curveball that comes out of nowhere and derails everything you’ve worked hard to achieve. Setbacks are not easy to accept, but they happen to us all.

For anyone who feels they are taking one step forward and two back as they carve out a career or build a business in the advice sector, do not despair. Even high-profile names in the profession have had their fair share of setbacks. But, as they explain here, it is always possible to bounce back.


Anna Sofat
Associate director,
Progeny Wealth

The key to success is to recognize there will be setbacks. It’s how you react to them that will determine the outcome.

One of my earliest setbacks was failing an exam. By age 24, I had my Masters and had passed eight exams from the Institute of Export & International Trade. So, when I started studying for the London Institute of Banking & Finance exams, I had utter confidence in my ability to sit four at once.

Everybody thought I was mad. Stubborn nerd that I was, I paid no heed — until I had sat three of the exams over two days, came to the fourth one, and froze. No one passed it the first time, so what made me so special? Before I knew it, I had failed.

I sat that exam again and again and failed those attempts too. I then had my first child and booked another resit three months after she was born. I will never forget that day. I was breastfeeding, so we drove to the exam center in London and I left the baby outside with my husband.

This time, I had no ugly thoughts rattling through my head. I just wanted to finish. And, because I did nothing but focus on what I knew and what the examiner was asking me, I passed. I was over the moon.

My advice to anyone who is experiencing a setback? Stop that voice in your head and get on with the job. Of course, focusing on the needs of a small baby works too.


Simon Goldthorpe
Joint executive chairman,
Beaufort Group

In 1994 I started an advice business called Beacon Asset Management. We expanded and, later, diversified into mortgages, ultimately becoming a lender.

By then, we had some serious shareholders: a venture capitalist and a major European bank. Real heavyweights and I sometimes felt a little out of my depth in board meetings. In those times, I heeded the advice of Abraham Lincoln: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

The business had way exceeded our ambitions and we started to catch the eye of investors. In 2007, we had an offer that seemed an eye-watering amount. The board meeting that followed showed how our aspirations differed. The venture capitalists and the bank had no desire to sell: “This business will be worth twice that amount in 12 months’ time.” I was outvoted.

Twelve months later, we saw the biggest financial crash in history — mortgage businesses wiped out. It was a bruising experience but made me a better decision-maker. Now, if something starts to look not right, I am quicker to investigate and don’t accept the status quo.

What did I learn? Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions or test group thinking. Challenge everything, including yourself. And know what your end game is and grab it when you can.


Dennis Hall
Chief executive,
Yellowtail Financial Planning

In 1997 I took a job with a UK-based independent financial adviser, advising British ex-pats in Russia. Clients worked for blue-chip western companies that we're venturing into the country.

I soon realized the IFA was corrupt and the offshore insurers it placed business with were turning a blind eye.

Most clients were based in Moscow for about three years to build capital. They’d been sold a 25-year savings plan with annual charges of 10% and huge early-surrender penalties.

A few ‘returners’ had already complained and were quietly paid off with commission from new plans. A Ponzi scheme.

I blew the whistle.

The IFA took legal action against me, and the regulator (the Personal Investment Authority) decided that UK IFAs doing dodgy business in Russia were not its problem.

I was ready to quit financial services — until I chose to play outside the rules…

I had previously recorded the IFA describing his Ponzi scheme. We sent copies to him, his lawyer, the regulator, and the insurance companies. They were given 48 hours to respond, then we would send a copy to every UK newspaper.

Within 24 hours his lawyer had dumped him and the insurance companies were cooperating. Unsurprisingly, the regulator didn’t respond, and the firm remains authorized.

Twenty years ago, a solitary adviser had minimal impact, but the press did. Today, through social media, advisers can come together to better hold the wrongdoers to account.

That includes large companies or showing up the regulator’s shortcomings.


Nick Bamford
Executive director,
Informed Choice

In every career or business venture, there will be times when things don’t go to plan. In fact, more often than not something will come along to test us.

Nine times out of 10, it comes down to the behavior of people. Often, it’s because of a recruitment error. You think someone has a particular attribute but it turns out they don’t.

Sometimes, though, you lose good people. We have created an environment at Informed Choice that has helped a number of employees over the years to move on and establish their own business. Of course, this means someone might leave us at an inconvenient time. Yet, every time this has happened, we have responded positively; not just bouncing back but achieving even better business results.

It’s too easy to get wrapped up in a negative mindset when someone leaves or something doesn’t go to plan. Resilience is key to success in careers or business.

Think about the positive things that have happened, have a good plan that can be executed, and the bumps in the road that always come along can be used as a springboard rather than a roadblock. Being able to visualize a positive outcome is often more than half the battle you have to fight.

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