You know exactly what I am talking about. Your business is really coming together. You finally have the right staff to help you fire on all cylinders. You picked up the needed momentum in closing your sales. You suddenly got noticed by the press for your product or service. At long last, it seems that your business may take off the way you want it to and you can almost taste the moment where you will be able to sit back, breathe a bit, and bask in the glory. Then BAM! Some unexpected crap happens and your dreams of coasting, even for a minute, evaporate into thin air.
It makes absolutely no difference how long you have been in business--it can happen after a month, a year, a decade--and it will, over and over again, no matter your industry or company. I can't even count how many times it has happened to me over the 12 years I have been a business owner, but I know that when it does, it aggravates me, disappoints me, and sometimes even makes me want to throw in the towel. However, I've learned that it is best to see these "obstacles" as opportunities. Here are 3 tactics for turning your business lemons into lemonade.
1. A staff member quits with little or no notice. Almost without fail, whenever I have had an employee who quit with little or no notice, it happened at the worst possible time. Three days before our biggest sale ever, for example, I had an order fulfillment staff member decide to quit urgently because he and his wife decided to relocate out of the blue. He had been doing great work, gotten several raises, and had a bright future with our company, and yet he was leaving--the very next day. I had a moment of "WTF?" and "Why me?", and then I had my lemonade moment. What if I cross-trained all the people in my company to be able to pick and ship orders? Because they already knew the product well, they could be trained fast, and avoid making mistakes with customers' orders. Not only would this solve my temporary problem of being shorthanded for the sale, it would also mean that at any time we had surges in orders, we could handle it without having to hire more people just by rotating staff--and the hidden benefit was that cross-training my sales reps gave them new appreciation for how important (and hard) the order fulfilment team's job was, which ultimately led to everyone working better together all the time.
2. You experience an unforeseen financial pitfall. A few years ago, we were growing in a very controlled and positive manner, and thought we were about to really get to enjoy all of the hard work that had brought us to that moment--when our factory suddenly fell behind in our deliveries. I was caught off guard, and so was our cash flow. After getting frustrated, furious, and ultimately fearful (in that order) of how we were going to make ends meet, I got creative. Rather than taking a loan at a high rate of interest that would have seen us through the rough patch--but at a heavy price on our year-end numbers-- I contacted one of our large customers, and instead offered to discount the invoices they had open with us if they would be willing to pay early. The discount was far less than I would have been charged in interest on the loan, and the opportunity to get our merchandise at an even better price made our customer happy as well.
3. Your website takes a hit. Whether Google screws you in rankings, your site stops functioning as intended, or your competitor finds a way to kick your online ass, digital drama makes you feel like you are publicly dying. Two years ago, we finally decided to overhaul our website because our customers were becoming more interested in meeting us online. We hired a reputable company and put a big budget into making our site a winner. The company we hired did not finish the site on time, and when they turned it over to us, there were hidden problems everywhere. For three months, we could not add any of our hundreds of new items to the site. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, and I wondered how we would keep getting the word out on our innovative products. So while I went to work to find a new team to fix the problem, I also got to thinking--what if not showing our new products online was actually a way to make them more seductive? My reps got on the phones, and reached out to our customers with these new secret items, and were able to tailor-suggest merchandise to our customers even better than our website could--and the result was not a loss, but rather a solid increase in our sales, including the items that were bought sight-unseen.
So do yourself a favor. Give up right now on ever getting to the moment when your business works perfectly. It's not going to happen. Focus instead on treating problems like possibilities--doing so will bring you both mental peace and a bigger piece of your market.