It’s okay to wind down: How to bounce back from a setback in your business

Published · 3 min read

As a small business owner and solo law practitioner, I found that highs achieved by my wins in the courtroom were very short-lived and my lows that accompanied any loss had much longer lifespans.  The mountains and valleys were a constant struggle for me and I had a very difficult time bouncing back emotionally.  Some days I did not want to be a lawyer at all and would have gladly traded the prestigious title for a couple of shifts at the Waffle House.

Then I would pick myself back up and head to the office.  When I got there, I would look around at the paintings on the wall, my Government Street location directly across from the Courthouse and my name on the outside window that you could see as you drive by on the busiest street in town.  Learning how to take the good with the bad is not just how business works.  It’s how life works.  It’s not all unicorns and rainbows.  It’s hard work.  And being proud of what you’ve been able to accomplish should fuel your personal fire to keep up the hard work.  Your employees and customers depend on you keeping it together.

Every small business goes through unexpected adversity of some sort: A key employee quits. You lose a big contract. Customer complaints surge over quality or service issues.  You’re blindsided by new competition or a new trend in the marketplace.

Chances are the chaos will have dissipated or become more manageable in some form and you can deal with what you have to in order to make everything better.

In dealing with setbacks like these, it’s easy to get mired in a loss of emotions perspective. However, as the business owner, you need to rebound quickly and lead your team through a comeback. How? These tips will help:

First and foremost, recognize that setbacks are part of life–and certainly a big part of being in business.

Don’t take the situation personally or beat yourself up over what went wrong. Dwelling on the past just amplifies the consequences by breeding more negativity. You can’t change what happened, so turn the page—there’s work to be done!

Move forward. Be proactive in confronting and fixing the problem. If you find yourself procrastinating on a turnaround strategy, don’t hesitate to seek advice from those who may have been through similar turmoil.

To start rebuilding morale, communicate your plans to employees and seek their ideas and support.

Keep a close watch on the lifeblood of your business: cash. Most setbacks have a negative financial dimension, so make the tough decisions necessary to control cash flow.  Cut all non-essential expenses until you’ve turned things around. Turn old receivables over to a collection agency. Focus more attention on increasing sales.  For example, consider offering referral bonuses to employees and customers.

Remind yourself of what success feels like. As successful athletes know, setbacks aren’t permanent. The next play, the next pitch, the next game is a new opportunity to excel. With a positive outlook, you can rekindle the enthusiasm—within yourself and your staff—that got your business going.

Make the setback a learning event. Once you’ve overcome initial emotions, try to objectively write a critical analysis. Could you have spotted the problem earlier? Should you have acted differently once you recognized the situation? Have you corrected internal weaknesses that magnified the problem? Develop contingency plans that will reduce risks of similar problems exploding in the future.

Up your game. Draw upon your entrepreneurial creativity and agility to uncover positive aspects of what you’ve been through. Look for opportunities to spark new, dynamic, morale-building initiatives.

In short, don’t dwell on the woeful past. By focusing on the positive and directing all of your energy to bouncing back, your business will regroup, recover, and be stronger than ever.

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