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5 Ways to Cope With a Major Business Setback

How long can an entrepreneur wallow, anyway?

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One gloomy Thursday morning, I received the call that could have announced the end of my marketing business. My biggest client had gone broke, the court had taken over the company, and it was highly unlikely I would get any of the money that was owed to me. At the time, its account was around $200,000.

I remember feeling like I had been kicked in the belly. I had no idea how I was going to survive this? I had a few employees on my team and we sat around for most of the day, simply shaking our heads in disbelief.

Thus began our period of wallowing.

For the next few weeks, we really struggled to come to terms with what had happened--and more importantly, what would happen. We were all kind of frozen. It felt like someone had died and there were no answers to be had.

So we wallowed.

But I soon realized that the biggest threat to my business wasn’t my client’s demise. It was our self-indulgent wallowing. I had to leap into action. The following steps saved my business, and they just might rescue yours following a big setback.

1. I set up meetings with each of my clients.

I needed to make sure that what had happened was a one-off anomaly--and not the beginning of a series of events that were guaranteed to end my business. My clients all reassured me that there were no problems; in fact, some offered me more work, knowing that I had extra capacity.

2. I got into serious business-development mode.

This was tough, especially as business had been good for a while and I hadn’t chased new clients for quite some time. But I had to make generating new business my number one priority.

3. I rounded up some cash

The cash may have stopped coming in, but it still had to go out. I had to figure out exactly how much hard, cold cash I had and I needed access to more right away. I knew that the longer I waited, the harder it would get. I may have been shocked, but I was OK--the real crunch was going to come in a couple of months. I got some extra credit cards, sold a few toys, and put together a small war chest of money to hopefully get me through.

4. I made some hard decisions

I had to lay off some staff, which was really hard. But if I didn’t, the whole business was going to go and everyone would lose their jobs. I downsized my office, moving to new cheaper premises. These were hard decisions, but now was the time to make hard decisions.

5. I tapped my network for support

People want to help. That’s what I learned when I reached out to my network. People responded, offering support in many ways. Now I don’t mean financial support--they offered advice, introduced me to new potential clients, spread the word that I was looking for more work, offered a shoulder to lean on. And some tough loving whenever I fell back into wallow mode.

Luckily for me, the moves I took saved my business and in fact created a much better business for me today. My advice is simple: Go ahead and wallow for a little while. Lick your wounds, be grumpy, experience the mixture of emotions associated with any setback. And then give yourself a good talking to and take some serious action.

Last updated: Nov 5, 2013

ANDREW GRIFFITHS is a Cairns, Australia-based serial entrepreneur and the author of 11 books about starting, managing, and growing small companies. For more Andrew, check out www.andrewgriffiths.com.au.
@AGauthor




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