I want to encourage you!  If you are in business today, the odds are that you are either experiencing some type of business set back now, you already have experienced a major set back or you will in the future.  That is the nature of the game we have chosen to play.

Today, I want to share a few tips with you that have helped me overcome a number of business obstacles and tough times.  First, I want to say one thing.  Don’t give up!  Don’t give in!  Don’t quit on your dream of business ownership.  It is incredibly difficult at times but there is also nothing more rewarding than walking into a business every day and knowing that you took an idea and turned it into an operation.  You took a group of people who had never met and turned them into a working group, all accomplishing tasks associated with your mission.  Here are some tips to help you face the tough times and survive your way to success.

#1 – Imagine the worst case scenario and make the tough decisions.  The biggest temptation during a business set back is to get caught up in idealism.  You dream of everything magically working out.  The truth is that it probably will all work out but in the short term, you have some tough decisions that need to be made quickly.  Don’t hesitate.  Embrace the worst possible scenario that may result from your decision and then make the decision.

As business owners, we have to make decisions that other people, even family members will never understand.  We have to decide who gets paid one week and who doesn’t get paid based on our cash flow.  We have to decide what level of service we can provide to our customers, not based on what we want but what we can afford.  Many times we have to call vendors and work out payment arrangements and sometimes, we just have to shut out everything going on around us to fix one, make or break issue.

Living in this type of situation for a long period of time can make you want to put off making decisions but if there is one thing I have learned in difficult times, it is that the longer you wait to make a decision, the worse your options will be.  If you are burning through cash, you will have a lot less to work within a month so you need to move quickly, think about the worst thing that can happen and as long as you can live with that, just make the decision and move on to the next one.

#2 – Focus on what matters.  Don’t split your focus into 50 different things.  When things get rough in your business, figure out why they are going badly, what you need to focus on to fix the underlying issue and then put 100% of your efforts into that.  These are great times to develop your team.  Let them know that things are tight and you need to dedicate yourself to a specific issue and you need them to do their jobs without the usual supervision and direction.

#3 – Never waiver in your long term belief.  I have had plenty of times where cash flow was tight, plenty of times that payment arrangements had to be made with vendors.  These are frustrating times and many times I got upset with myself and my team for mistakes we made.  However, I never lost my strong believe in our eventual success and our mission.  If you tell your team the ship is sinking, don’t be surprised when they jump over board.  Instead, tell them that you are going to sail to the other side but you are in the midst of some rough waters right now and you need all hands on deck in order to accomplish your eventual goals.

#4 – Make a plan, then make a contingency plan.  No matter how bad things get, you are still going to be making decisions.  Many business owners don’t like to think ahead about “What if everything goes wrong…”  The problem is that when things do go wrong, you don’t have time to think that much.  Make those truly gut wrenching decisions ahead of time and write them down.  Make the contingency plan you need to make and then, when the time comes, you will be ready to execute your plan!

#5 – Communicate to everyone.  Think about your employees, your team.  What information do they need to have?  If your company is doing poorly and this may result in them losing their jobs, they should know this and they should have an opportunity to voice their opinion or put in extra effort because this now effects them as well.  I am not a big believer in open book accounting as a general rule but I do believe you should share the data with each employee to help them see what they have control over, how their performance effects the company and, if things are going poorly, how the company’s overall performance could lead to layoffs.

Most importantly, realize that this phase is going to pass by.  A year or two from now, you will be looking back and thinking of the time you had to make these crazy decisions that no one wants to make.  That employee who storms out of your office after being let go because you simply couldn’t afford to keep them is going to be alright and find a new job.  Your friends and family are going to be there for you.  Right now, in this moment, you need to focus on your business and getting it right.  Make the tough decisions, do the right things, do the things you know you have to do, in order to survive your way to success.

I hope you enjoyed this post!  If you have come through a tough time in business, please comment below to share some encouraging words with the other business owners who follow this blog.

James Shepherd

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