leadership

ENJO founder Barb de Corti on one of her biggest failures as a business owner and “as a human being”

Emma Koehn /

Left to right: Enjo founder Barb de Corti, Rodine chief executive Justine Teggelove, Australia Post acting chief executive Christine Corbett, journalist Shelly Horton.

ENJO founder Barb de Corti is a regular feature on SmartCompany’s top list of female entrepreneurs, but when asked to explain the most important factors in her success, the entrepreneur says the ability to learn from her failures plays a key role.

Speaking on a panel of female executives at Business Chicks’ 9 to Thrive event in Melbourne on Friday, de Corti explained the ability to own your mistakes is a valuable skill in an era where too many deny their errors. 

“The world is full of people who stuff up daily and don’t own it,” she observed.

The reluctance to sit in the uncomfortable knowledge of your failure means you don’t ever actually move forward, she said. 

“When you own it, you can learn from it,” she said

Taking this approach isn’t necessarily easy, but the sooner you take pride in your own mistakes, the sooner you can move onto success, de Corti says.

“It is tough — when you have to stand in front of your staff or in the mirror and you go, like ‘yep, that was me … I stuffed this up because I didn’t trust somebody or I trusted the wrong person,’” she explained.

Since founding ENJO in 1994, de Corti says she has gone through periods of years where mistakes were made as she built the $100 million cleaning products company.

“I went through a period of a few years when I didn’t listen to people, and it was probably one of the biggest failures I’ve ever had as a human being, not only as a business owner,” she said.

The failure to take the expertise of others on board meant de Corti put business decisions in the hands of the wrong people.

“You surround yourself then with people which actually don’t help you to be the best version of you and this is what you need to do,” she said.

More than 20 years on from founding her business, the scope for failure is ever-present — and de Corti says she loves it.

“I’m failing everyday and I’m proud of it and I’m loving myself for it,” she said. 

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.

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