In the Batman trilogy series, butler Alfred asks young master Bruce, “Why do we fall?” And the response is, “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” His father, Thomas Wayne, shared the same sentiment as have millions of people who have fallen and mistakenly considered themselves a failure.

Failing is different, however. A failure is one who makes mistakes, sometimes stupid mistakes, and sometimes selfishly, but does not learn from them. They give up.

The vaping world is one of the riskiest businesses these days. Regulations. Online competition. Media backlash. The reasons for the challenges are many, yet some survive, succeed, and thrive. Others wallow, struggle and eventually give up. What separates one group from the other?

A Personal Story
The study of success and failure in business is very personal to me, primarily because I have experienced both.

As an entrepreneur for forty years, there are patterns that I see that can make the difference between the two. In my younger years I made all the classic mistakes and learned my lessons the hard way.

Being attached to your own bad ideas (ego)
Not acknowledging, looking for, or accepting help
Resistance to change
Not paying attention to the signs
Being overly optimistic- and over pessimistic

1) After the 2008 recession I saw scores of businesses fail. In most cases it was not the recession per se that took them down- it was ego. They were attached to their own bad ideas.

“This is the way I always did it, so it should continue to work.”

“This is the way that I think it should be done, so I will keep at it until my customer’s understand.”

We’ve heard them both before, but have you said either of these statements yourself? If you think Vape 2019 is the same as Vape 2015, you’re in trouble.

2) Part II of the ego dilemma is the resistance to seeking help or getting feedback. When we are young, we are blinded by our youth. We think we will live forever, never get hurt and every idea is brilliant. Many of my failures in my thirties were because I never seeked out a second opinion or a mentor.

3) In my decades of entrepreneurism, no business I have seen is as dynamic as this one. A business model that worked last year, or even a few months ago, may be shot. Liquids change, new devices (legal or not) continue to entice, plus other revenue channels, like CBD, Kratom, glassware, and such continue to complicate the game.

4) Another aspect of ego and resistance to change, is to ignore or not look for signs. In the surfing parlance the surfer’s goal is to “catch the wave” at just the right moment. Too soon and the wave breaks ahead of you, too late and you can get thrown off the board. Business has its ups and downs and cycles. Look for those cycles and pay attention to “signs.”

5) Optimism is a wonderful thing! We all want that glass to be half-full rather than half empty, but we can also be blinded by our own sense of positive. The inverse of that is thinking that “nothing will work,” and giving up too quickly. The line between the two can be slight, but steering more toward the positive will usually steer you right.

Today’s World
If you look back over the years, many brands have come and gone, and some new ones have taken over. How does that happen?

Scalability is one of the most difficult things in business and growing outside your skill set is a common occurrence. Some brands have been merged with another and taken new directions. Space Jam is now more corporate, ditto Avail, now partially owned by Altria.

The question is, “How will you grow? How big do you want to grow?” Success is not always measured in dollars, but by your own measure of whether you are a success or not. SVBS

Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors and creator of the VAPE U and Vape Shop Certification online programs. They offer services & resources for anyone in the vape space, including vape shops, online stores and e-liquid brands and work internationally with an office in Europe. They also work with CBD and helping retail shops convert over from vape. He’s also the host of Vape Radio, the largest vaping radio show in the world with more than 1.3M downloads. Contact him at
[email protected]