One thing is inevitable as you set out on your entrepreneurial path to success. You will at some point encounter an obstacle in your path. Typically, it will be a minor blip that you navigate around and continue merrily on your way. On occasion it may be a boulder in the road that sends you reeling.
Bad days, setbacks and downright unpredictable events will occur in business. It’s how you respond to them that will help you to dust yourself off and get back on track. Here are some suggestions to help:-
Step back and analyze : You may encounter a logistical problem which affects a relationship with a major client, for example, a supplier who fails to deliver or key staff who walk out. Sometimes it's a cashflow issue, such as over-trading, late paying clients or something as basic as your forecast turnover failing to materialize. Whatever has taken the wind out of your sails, it’s essential to take a step back and understand (1) exactly what’s happened and (2) if you could have prevented it.
Deal with the immediate problem : Once you understand what's happening, it's essential to tackle the crisis immediately. Approach the bank to extend your overdraft, ask for time to pay your suppliers, outsource your staffing requirements. Once you have dealt with the symptoms, you can turn your attention to fixing the cause.
Get some perspective : Being in business for yourself, while ultimately rewarding and fulfilling, is the loneliest place in the world when the going gets tough. If you don’t have a mentor seek one out through your networks. Whatever problem you are facing, it will have been faced by entrepreneurs before you. There’s no substitute for experience and a mentor or business advisor can add perspective to the issues you are dealing with, offering advice on how to deal with it or where to find useful resources.
Adjust as necessary : Revisit your original business plan, analyze your cashflow, check your original market evaluation. You need to understand what’s happened and what you can do to prevent a recurrence in the future, from tighter payment plans to better business forecasts or improved hiring procedures. If it’s down to a lack of sales, you may need to readjust your business focus to a different market. In the early stages of my recruitment career I ran a temporary staffing agency, originally specializing in secretarial and admin posts. Within a few months, I realized the business was doomed to failure unless we switched focus. We turned to the catering sector and grew a successful brand over the next few years. A small shift in direction may make the difference between success and failure for your start-up.
Reschedule your business plan : Running your own business is a continual learning curve. Take into account the lessons learned, draw up an action plan and build in realistic contingencies to prevent a future recurrence. If it's the repeat of a previous issue, see it as a red flag. The definition of corporate insanity is doing the same thing in the hope of producing different results.
Take a reality check : Delaying difficult decisions will only exacerbate the problem. In the past I’ve been guilty of putting my head in the sand in the desperate hope that the situation will magically resolve itself. It doesn’t. Whatever you need to do, taking out a short term overdraft or bank loan, moving from office premises back to your home office for a while, temporarily laying off your staff, you have to do it today.
Take time out : At the earliest possible opportunity take some time out to reflect and recharge your batteries. Knockbacks affect your confidence and self-belief but it’s your response to these setbacks that will determine how you grow and succeed. Book a retreat, take a few days at a spa, but make sure you clear your head before you step forward again.
Don’t be afraid to start again : Some obstacles are insurmountable and you may have to cut your losses, go back to the beginning and start again. If this happens, be honest with yourself; running a business isn’t for everyone. The point is that you’ve tried. If you need to return to employment even for a short while to recharge those batteries, that’s fine. This is your life and you have to be true to yourself.
Don’t be hard on yourself – Starting a business is tough, it takes guts and determination, don’t be down on yourself – you have both in abundance or you wouldn't have set out on this path. Absorb what you’ve learned and apply those lessons in practice. Remember, failure is only temporary, giving up is permanent.
Kate Smedley is a freelance writer specializing in a range of topics including talent management, career advice, franchising and lifestyle.
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