As long as you’re observing from a safe distance, business failures can be incredibly interesting. Many of the business books I’ve found the most enjoyable and instructive have been about failures: When Genius Failed (Long Term Capital Management), Conspiracy of Fools (Enron), and How Markets Fail (numerous financial institutions) are a few of my favorites that break down catastrophic failures in compelling detail. And despite the carnage wrought by some of these blowups, I find the narratives comforting in a way. After all, if your idea, product, or business fails, at least you’re in good company.
Every now and then we all have to break bad news to our superiors, our customers, our investors, or whatever audience to whom we ultimately answer. As it was, is now, and forever shall be, Adam’s advice to young employees holds true: the farther out you can spot potential trouble and let your manager know, the better chance there is that you can prevent it from becoming a larger issue. But we all know that things we can’t always do this. What do you do when the opportunity to nip a problem in the bud is long, long past?