How I Learned to Overcome Huge, Unexpected Challenges as a Business Owner

Overcome huge unexpected challenges as a business owner

People are looking to you for reassurance, clarity, and strength. Leaders, it's time to deliver.

Challenges in business are expected. In some cases, you can spot them from a mile away. It’s a slow build to what will inevitably become a corporate disaster. Much like a meteorologist can predict a storm is coming, sometimes there are warning signs. No doubt it’s still traumatic when it hits, but at least you’ve had a few moments to board up the windows and run to the storm cellar.

Then there are challenges you never saw coming. Retrospectively, there were likely signs you could have paid more attention to, but for the most part, it was business as usual. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, everything falls apart. Your offices are closed, your staff are scattered, and you’re clinging to an umbrella in the middle of a hurricane.

Throughout my career, I’ve navigated quite a few obstacles (and have the scars to prove it). There was the dot-com bubble in 1999, the 2008 recession, and many other challenges along the way. This includes partnerships gone wrong, employees who stole physical and intellectual property for my competitors, and a European expansion that took a turn for the worst.

Throughout all of these times, I felt like giving up. Thankfully, I didn’t let self-doubt take over and I pushed through. So here are three lessons I learned that will ensure you will push through as well.

 

1. Be honest. 

I know we’re all taught to “fake it till you make it,” but in times of crisis, this is literally the worst thing you can do. No one wants to admit when their business is struggling. But pretending you’re thriving when everyone else is surviving isn’t going to get you anywhere.

This is especially true with your staff. No one wants to be blindsided by a termination. To omit confusion and uphold a strong culture, you need to be honest from the very beginning. If sales are dropping, share it. If you’re uncertain of the future, tell them. And, most important, open up the dialogue. Allow for a town hall or Q&A session with you and the other executives to ensure complete transparency. 

2. Ask for help.

In business, we tend to be very singular. In nearly every industry, we leaders keep to ourselves, never wanting to give away tips, tricks, or secrets to our competition. 

Yet when I and the rest of the world underwent financial troubles in ’99 and ’08, an incredible thing happened: The fences came down and we began to help one another out. I suddenly had incredible leaders willing to give me advice on how to navigate the uphill battle.

So if you’re struggling and unsure of what to do, tap into your network and ask for help. Everyone comes together, because we’re all in the same boat, trying to battle the waves one stroke at a time.

3. Eat popcorn.

This may not seem like the most sound advice, but hear me out. When your business’s survival is threatened, you likely find it all-consuming. Sleepless nights, 14-hour days, weekends — you name it. Concentrating on how to turn things around is likely all you can focus on.

I’ve followed this pattern many times before. When crisis mode kicks in, how could you think of doing anything else besides work? Turns out, you’re only human. You need a break before you head for a breakdown.

So turn off your phone. Shut down the computer. Put on your sweats, pop some popcorn, and turn on a movie. Relieve your mind for a couple of blissful hours where you don’t have to think, speak, or type. Give yourself permission to unplug. It’s the only way to regroup and tackle what lies ahead.

In times like these, it can be hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. And while it may seem that way now, I am living proof that you can and will get through this difficult period. Let my past experiences be an example that perseverance and positivity will drive you through the course.

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