Every entrepreneur and business owner I know has had more setbacks than they would like to admit, in this age of rapid change and constant surprises, like the current pandemic. Some are able to overcome every challenge, and come out ahead, while others are discouraged and lose ground with each one, ultimately leading to their business demise. Which category are you in?
Based on my own experience as a business advisor, I’m convinced that it is all about your mindset for success, and the habits you have developed for tackling problems and challenges. I offer the following strategies for approaching any adversity, as positive steps to turning it into an opportunity rather than a spiral into the ground:
1. Look for positives and avoid the victim mentality.
Accept the fact that change is normal, and is probably the reason you saw an opportunity to start your business in the first place. Now is the time to look for a new opportunity, and prove that it has more potential for you than the first one. Don’t become the victim you fear with no control.
For example, all the restaurants I know were impacted by diners staying at home during the pandemic. Many went out of business, but a few were quick to focus on store pickup and home delivery, and have found a new lucrative option that outlasted the problem.
2. Stay cool and calm, and manage by objective facts.
Don’t let emotions and feelings override your logical decision process as you look at alternatives. Rather than get angry and upset, fall back to your initial process for evaluating markets, customer needs, and financial implications. Let the challenge expand your thinking, rather than closing options.
Often what looks like an emotional issue, like unwarranted customer complaints online, have specific facts behind them, which may surprise you. Instead of responding with anger, you may learn by investigation that one of your processes isn’t working as desired.
3. Seek input from the team, as well as mentors.
Don’t try to carry all the weight on your own shoulders, as team members are likely closer to the customer, and my have some real insights. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from peers, your advisory board, and outside experts and mentors. Good business leaders collaborate on tough decisions.
Some well-known business leaders, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, always kept an active mentor relationship with a peer or two, to discuss business challenges and strategy. Others have internal experts that they trust to tell them the unvarnished truth.
4. Revisit your high-level goals and business purpose.
Don’t allow any one setback to sidetrack you from your vision to change the world. There is never only one path to a goal, so now is the time to re-focus on your vision, and find alternate paths to achieve it, perhaps better than your original idea. Learn from your progress and challenges so far.
In some cases, a business problem can be a reminder that your interests have changed, or the path you thought was right is not getting you the satisfaction you seek. In these cases, the crisis is really a positive in getting you back on the right track to success.
5. Enhance your self-confidence to provide leadership.
Remember to capitalize on your strengths, and not play to your weaknesses, in analyzing every situation. Look at every challenge as an opportunity to learn and provide leadership to your team. They need to see you as a role model for their own success, rather than a model for failure.
6. Adopt a mindset of refusing to concede defeat.
In my experience, giving up too early is one of the primary causes of business failure, rather than running out of money or any other challenge. If you are fully determined, motivated, and committed, almost any crisis can be overcome. Your team will adopt your mindset, and multiply your will to succeed.
Always remember that building a lasting and successful business is a journey, not a sprint. There will be adversity and changes that occur outside your control. The more directly you face and accept these challenges, the better you will become at turning them into opportunities.
Just follow the lead and mindset of great business leaders before you, including Howard Schultz and Steve Jobs, and your legacy and satisfaction will be assured.