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STARTUP

3 Ways to Deal With Disaster

Here's how a veteran entrepreneur keeps from going bonkers when absolutely everything seems to go wrong.
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I could write a book about everything that's gone wrong lately:

  • We moved locations, and the new building forgot to include us in a memo informing all tenants that the air conditioning was being replaced the day we were moving in. Of course, this was in August. The memory of operating inside an oven for three whole business days without the possibility of opening a window is seared in my mind.
  • Two thousand customers got a return form with the wrong address. That address directed customers to send packages for exchanges or reimbursements to our old office in Virginia. We are now in Florida. We had hundreds of angy customers calling us to let us know that their package got returned to sender (or worse). And it was our fault--the wrong forms were the result of a miscommunication between employees. 
  • We were temporarily unable to process credit card payments on our site, thanks to the botched introduction of some new functionality on our ecommerce platform. The "add to cart" button disappeared. Pictures looked distorted. People's orders disappeared. Our revenue stream was completely cut off.

Sometimes, as I recall everything that's happened throughout the years, I chuckle a little in a bit. Sure, it's funny now. But you can't make this stuff up. Projects go haywire. Plans fall apart. And when Murphy's Law is present, your strength of character is tested.

The hardest part:  Keeping the business afloat. Raising the bar to a new level every month, every quarter, every year. Averting disaster, or at the least, riding with the punches and rising above them. Learning from mistakes. Calculating risk. Making it work every day.

If you've encountered great challenges in your business, you may have days when you want to give up and cut your losses. But you know what? Don't. Keep this in mind:

Challenges make you stronger
Bad things happen to good people. That's when your conviction and passion are tested. It may sound corny, but the climb teaches you how to be great. See it as a great stroke of luck.

Mistakes make you better
Crap happens. Crap that was your fault happens. Crap that was someone else's fault happens. It's costly, it's messy, it's a big loss on top of another loss. This is your chance to learn from it. Perhaps there's something wrong with your processes--a hole you hadn't seen. Think positively: This mistake may help you avoid a bigger one.

Failure is the key to success
I have yet to meet an extremely successful person who hasn't failed miserably at something. Many of them have failed at things they now do extraordinarily well. The phrase "roll with the punches" rings true for these types of experiences. If you approach failure as a passing situation, it's easier to ease through it, and become better for it.

If your business has a solid direction, and a gosh darn good product or service, this is where you should build the fight to continue moving forward. Nothing that's worth something is easy (or cheap). Believe in yourself, in what you have, and in what you've worked on, and keep going.

Last updated: Sep 26, 2012

In 2007, MAYRA JIMENEZ and her husband founded The Orchid Boutique, which specializes in designer swimwear made in their native Colombia. Today, Orchid Boutique is a multimillion-dollar business.
@mayra_j




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