Five Strategies to Deal with any Business Crisis

When our twins were four or five years old, we drove from our home in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania out to Hershey Park for what we thought would be a day of family fun and magical memories.  The day started off true to form with lots of great rides and experiences for us, for our girls and for my parents who were along for the trip. Then came our fateful decision to climb aboard the Canyon River Rapids, which has since been retired to make way for other attractions.

I remember getting to the front of the line and hesitating when I saw the sign which read in big, bold letters, 

THE WATERFALLS ARE OPERATIONAL
YOU WILL GET SOAKED!

Now, of course because many women are wired to actually think things through and protect their children, my wife Stacy said, “Do you think they’re old enough to get on this?”

And of course I gave the classic Dad answer, “Absolutely!  It’s only water. How bad can it be?”

The ride started gently enough.  We sat in circular six person raft gently making our way downstream.   Refreshing trickles of water from overhead spouts cascaded into the boat and we laughed as we continued on down the river.  

The way got a little rougher with dips in the river splashing small waves over the sides of our boat.  But we were still having a grand old time and laughing away.

Then came the waterfall section.  It was a deluge of water that repeatedly rained down upon us.  It didn’t just feel like gravity at work, but instead like a monster was standing on the cliffs above and forcefully hurling gigantic buckets of water down upon our heads.

As an adult I continued to laugh between each water beat-down but after the fourth or fifth time, my kids became completely overwhelmed and sobbed uncontrollably.  

As we disembarked, I sheepishly made my way off the ride knowing that my wife had a big, “I told you so David,” thought bubble over her head as we guided our still-sniffling girls out the exit.

When Your Business Makes You Want to Cry

I tell this story because we, as entrepreneurs, will invariably have moments like my girls had on the Canyon River Rapids.  The wheels will fly off so fast in so many different directions in your business that you can be left feeling overwhelmed and literally in tears trying to cope.  

I have had many sleepless nights worrying about one crisis or another – some that actually happened and many that my overactive imagination dreamt into existence as I terrorized myself with various “What if?” scenarios that would certainly lead to the failure of my business.  

As bad as these imagined and real crises were, they forced me to develop a set of practical techniques and deeper coping skills that I use in advance of and during these inevitable business beat-downs that we all experience as entrepreneurs.  And I’m happy to share them with you in hopes that one or more will help you keep on smiling as you ride the wild ride that is being in business for yourself.

Strategy #1 – Get Organized

This strategy is something you implement before disaster strikes.  You need to have a long-term strategy in place to document your processes, and organize your computer files and your physical space.  If you spend hours every day trying to relearn how to navigate a certain website, searching for computer files or explaining for the hundredth time how to do something to one of your employees, you simply won’t have the bandwidth to deal with true emergencies when they come up.  

Admittedly, this continues to be a work in progress for me.  I have always had excellent digital and paper files but have never loved documenting the processes that drive my business.  One of my new favorite strategies has been to delegate this to my virtual assistant. As we continue to expand her role within my company, each time she takes on a new function, she also documents the process that she uses.  This saves us many hours a week trying to reinvent the wheel and frees up my bandwidth to deal with the unexpected.

Strategy #2 – Get Centered

Those two little girls I mentioned in my initial story are now 20 and juniors in college.  When they’re home on break and I’m trotting out the door to yoga class they will say, “OK Dad, go center yourself!”

Dr. Stephen Covey refers to this personal rejuvenation process as “sharpening the saw.”  I spent far too many years continuously sawing away at my to do list and not nearly enough time replenishing my mind, body and spirit.  In addition to yoga, I eat a diet low in sugar and processed foods, spend time walking in nature, and regularly meditate, journal and read personal development books.

Getting centered gives you the personal bandwidth and resilience required to face a challenge head on rather than crawling in bed and pulling the covers up over your head, which I’ve been known to do in the past!

Strategy #3 – Get Acceptance

But what if you’re immersed in a crisis right now, your business processes are a mess and, and like the former me, you’ve been running full sprint for years? I was in that exact space in 2016 and simply didn’t have the presence of mind to do much of anything related to either getting organized or getting centered.  

I found that in those darkest hours, it was best to let my monkey mind run wild, play out every imaginable worst case scenario and then simply sit with and accept that some or all of these things could actually happen.  This is easier said than done; and this process of acceptance can take months or years to fully realize.

I can speak from personal experience that if you’re in the depths of a significant business and personal crisis, you’re probably not even reading this article right now.  So, if you know someone who is, please take a moment to share just this section with them.

Here’s a real life example of my money mind at work in the 2016-2017 time frame and how things actually played out:

“What if I get so anxious and depressed, I need to take a leave of absence from my six figure corporate job?” (Actually happened.)

“What if I continue to stay so anxious and depressed, I need to quit my corporate job well before my side business pays the bills?” (Actually happened.)

“What if I can only work a job like driving Uber or packing up boxes at Target while barely functioning in my business because I’m such a physical and mental mess?” (Actually happened.)

“What if my former corporate co-workers see me working at Target?  I’ll be mortified!” (Actually happened. Although, as the months went by, I grew to love hustling around Target while building my business and I think some of my former co-workers were actually jealous that I wasn’t chained to a desk every day.)

“What if my financial planning practice gets audited at the exact worst possible time when I don’t have my processes properly documented and I can barely string two coherent thoughts together?” (Actually happened.  I survived the audit through the help of Stacy, other financial planners in my network and simply putting one foot in front of the other every day during the process – See Strategy #4.)

“What if I continue to stay so anxious and depressed I flush my business down the tubes too?” (Didn’t happen.  In fact, I now have two thriving businesses. But I did accept that this was a real possibility and I might need to start over.)

“What if I run out of money and die penniless?” (Didn’t happen.  I’m sitting in my nice warm house typing these words, the bills are still getting paid, my daughters are still in college and we have food to eat and clothes to wear.)

Learning the skill of acceptance was a pivotal moment for me both as an entrepreneur and a person and may be the only tool you have in the box right now.

Strategy #4 – Get Chopping

Strategies 4 and 5 are when we start to take action to solve the problem.  Get chopping means breaking down a massive, complex crisis into smaller individual steps.  Then, to choose among them:

  • If you’re coming from a place of overwhelm, break tasks down into the tiniest increments possible.  Then choose the smallest (a single phone call, a visit to the post office, a three sentence email) and sit down and do it.  Gather strength, choose the next smallest task and do that one. Even if you only get through a few, small things, you’ll feel better when you lay down at night having made progress.
  • If you’re coming from a better space, a technique I love is to first sort tasks by priority (A, B, C), look at the A’s and choose the one that will have the biggest impact in the least amount of time with the least amount of effort on my part and start there.
  • Finally, for challenges that will take many days or weeks to work through, employ Brian Tracy’s eat that frog technique.  Each day that you end work, write your prioritized to do list for the following day. Look at the A priorities and draw a red circle around the biggest, most unpleasant task among them.   Then, when you arrive at your desk the next day, sit down and work on that task to completion before doing anything else including checking emails or your phone. Once you get in this routine, you will love eating those ugly frogs first thing and knowing that the rest of the day is a breeze by comparison!

Strategy #5 – Get Chatty

In the past I’ve underestimated the power of getting chatty about my business challenges, which simply means talking to everyone you can about what you’re facing and gathering input on how to resolve it. When I first started in business, this was limited to weekend chats with Stacy.  Now, when I’m having difficulty getting my arms around a problem, I talk with family, with friends, with financial advisors from my study group and various discussion boards, and with other business owners.  Sometimes I will even reach out to clients to get their perspective because of the rich, diverse background of the people I serve. You will be amazed at the power of collective thinking and how eager people are to help you succeed when they sense your entrepreneurial spark.

How Will You Tackle Your Next Business Challenge?

Which of these tools resonates with you?  Send me an email at info@RowanFinancial.com and let me know which ones you’re already using, a new one you’re going to try or your personal favorite that’s not on this list.  I’d love to hear from you!