Starting and running your own business delivers excitement, personal and professional satisfaction, and challenges. Sometimes, the challenges come in the form of unwelcome surprises.
Dealing with the unexpected is never easy. However, it can be less daunting when you’ve accepted that unanticipated circumstances will arise, and you establish strategies for working through them.
In the eight years since I founded Strella Social Media, I’ve experienced an array of unexpected situations that had the potential to thwart my productivity, squash my confidence, and set my business back financially.
While the specific details of my experiences are unique to me, I know that other business owners have faced similar scenarios.
Whether you’re just launching your company or have been in business for any length of time, expect to eventually encounter one or more (or all!) of the following unexpected developments.
Loss of a client due to no fault of your own.
There can be any number of reasons why this might happen. Sometimes customers don't have realistic expectations about what your products or services will do for them. (I run across this often as some new clients expect sales numbers to burst through the roof after just a month of consistent social media activity.) Sometimes customers don't have the funds to continue working with you. Or other reasons beyond your control contribute to the client's decision to part ways.
How do you prepare for this? I know this is cliché, but it’s also quite wise: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If your business relies too heavily on the revenue from one customer, you’ll set yourself up for disaster if that customer decides to leave you. When the income you receive from all your clients is proportional, you’ll be better able to weather the financial hit of one of them saying “goodbye.”
Departure of a key team member.
This could happen either because you’ve decided to let them go or they opted to leave.
I’ve worked through both scenarios. Neither is fun, but they come with the territory of being an employer.
The key to surviving this is to have clearly documented systems and processes in place for all aspects of your business. This will ensure you have a working knowledge of what each of your team members does, and it will allow you to more easily bring other team members up to speed about how to fill in for each other when something (including job termination) takes them away.
Most business owners that I know don’t have the luxury of “sick days.” However, that doesn’t stop the common cold, flu, or other maladies from occasionally reminding us that we’re only human.
The way to get through it is to cut yourself some slack, and permit yourself to slow down the pace temporarily. If you must work through an illness, identify what absolutely, without a doubt needs to get done. Let the rest wait or delegate to a capable team member. Of course, communicate with clients, vendors and project partners if your amended work schedule will affect them. Most often, at least in my experience, people are understanding and willing to give you some extra time when you're under the weather.
Family situations that demand your attention.
These, too, are inevitable. From aging parents’ medical emergencies to heartbroken children in need of consoling after their goldfish left this world for that great big goldfish bowl in the sky, family members sometimes need—and deserve— your full attention.
I find that family do not get sick or need something when it’s convenient for me (is there ever really a good time?), so I’ve had to pivot quickly as the situation calls for it.
Navigating these tricky and often emotionally charged times can go more smoothly as a result of how you've prepared for the other unexpected scenarios we've discussed. Your documented systems and processes will help other team members manage some of the tasks you might not have time to tend to. And communicating with stakeholders will enable you to set revised expectations during your temporary period of unavailability.
Expect the Unexpected
You have no way of anticipating everything that will come at you in life or in business. Although it’s impossible to prepare fully for the unexpected, you can overcome the challenges more adeptly if you approach them resourcefully and rationally.