Original Research

Successive failure, repeat entrepreneurship and no learning: A case study

Marius Pretorius, Ingrid le Roux
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 9, No 1 | a236 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v9i1.236 | © 2011 Marius Pretorius, Ingrid le Roux | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 July 2009 | Published: 14 October 2011

About the author(s)

Marius Pretorius, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Ingrid le Roux, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Orientation: Current theories of repeat entrepreneurship provide little explanation for the effect of failure as a ‘trigger’ for creating successive ventures or learning from repeated failures.

Research purpose: This study attempts to establish the role of previous failures on the ventures that follow them and to determine the process of learning from successive failures.

Motivation for the study: Successive failures offer potentially valuable insights into the relationship between failures on the ventures that follow and the process of learning from failure.

Research design, approach and method: The researchers investigated a single case study of one entrepreneur’s successive failures over 20 years.

Main findings: Although the causes varied, all the failures had fundamental similarities. This suggested that the entrepreneur had not learnt from them. The previous failures did not trigger the subsequent ventures. Instead, they played a role in causing the failures. Learning from failure does not happen immediately but requires deliberate reflection. Deliberate reflection is a prerequisite for learning from failure as the entrepreneur repeated similar mistakes time after time until he reflected on each failure.

Practical/managerial implications: It confirms that failure is a part of entrepreneurial endeavours. However, learning from it requires deliberate reflection. Failure does not ‘trigger’ the next venture and educators should note this.

Contribution/value-add: Knowing the effect of failure on consecutive ventures may help us to understand the development of prototypes (mental frameworks) and expand the theory about entrepreneurial prototype categories.


business decline; entrepreneurial process; learning; reflection; venture formation


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