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Making the best of it

Strategies for overcoming business setbacks

By Hannah Massen

We’ve all been there: one of your best clients leaves you for one of your competitors. The new product you thought everyone would love falls flat. Your sales fall short of your goals for the quarter, or you signed a contract and realize you made a mistake too late. 

Entrepreneurs know that there is no straight shot to success. The road to starting or growing your own business is rocky at the best of time and downright unpredictable at the worst. Even when you make the best decisions you can with the information you have, you might find yourself at a dead end. But a creative flop or unexpected expense doesn’t mean your business is doomed (no matter how defeated you feel). Use these strategies to approach – and overcome – business setbacks.

Acknowledge the situation

Any time a human is involved in a project, there’s the potential for human error. Going into denial or letting your pride keep you from owning up to a mistake will only make a bad situation worse. The first step in overcoming a business setback is to take a critical – while not criticizing – look at what really happened. Take responsibility where needed, then hold your head high and get to work on a solution.

Find the deeper meaning

In the words of Jennifer Aniston, “There are no regrets in life, just lessons.” As devastating as setbacks may feel in the moment, there’s usually something to be gained from even the most difficult situations. Maybe a financial setback points to a pattern of over-giving and undercharging, or a fight with a coworker clarifies your need to set boundaries at work. Whether you call it a “silver lining” or a “teachable moment,” treat the experience as a lesson learned or experience gained.

Revisit your goals

When you’re barreling down the track, it’s easy for things to fly off the rails. Slow down after a setback and take a moment to revisit your goals. Are you any closer to where you wanted your business to be five years ago? If not, why not? When was the last time you updated your products, services, or infrastructure to meet current demands? Does your brand still accurately reflect your business? Taking a good, long look at your company goals may be the key to solving your current problem and preventing similar situations in the future. 

Reach out to your support system 

You don’t have to go it alone when the going gets tough. Leaning on trusted advisors, coworkers, or friends in your industry won’t only benefit your mental health, but it could benefit your business, too. Chances are, your mentors have been in similar situations before, which means they have years of experience to share. Don’t waste time experimenting with solutions if someone you know can guide you out of the woods. 

Don’t dwell

When the worst of the setback is over, it’s tempting to wallow in fear and anxiety that the same thing will happen again. When you stop treating setbacks as failures, you’ll be able to move on more easily and help your business recover faster.

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