Like life, business can be tough. They both knock you down, sometimes when you least expect it. Then they mock you when you try to get back onto your feet. Business owners who survived the recession, the various natural disasters we've seen over the past few years, and their own personal struggles know that it’s possible to survive the worst that life has to offer. The key to rebounding from almost anything is to successfully pass through three separate stages:
1. Analyze what went wrong. You tried something expecting one outcome but got something completely different. Why? How did you miss the warning signs? Did you fail to plan accordingly? Did you not have a backup plan? Was the failure something that was beyond your control? It’s important at this stage to be brutally honest with yourself and why you failed. Don’t make excuses—instead, focus on the facts so that you can prepare yourself and your business for stage two. Write everything down to make sure you didn’t miss any of the mistakes or errors in judgment. If you have a business coach, an advisor, or someone on your team who can help you with this stage, definitely include them. They may see something that you missed.
2. Learn from your mistakes. Once your report is done, review it to see how you might have done things differently to avoid getting knocked to the ground. If the mistake was a financial one, consider bringing in an accountant or a business advisor who is trained to spot trends in the marketplace that will help you avoid similar mistakes in the future. If the failure was a result of technology (e.g. you didn’t properly backup your data or you fried your servers), think about hiring an IT person to help you put the proper equipment in place so that you don’t have the same problem in a year.
The objective is to not only learn from your mistakes, but to also not make the same mistake twice. If your business is routinely in financial distress, then you aren’t learning from past mistakes. A successful business owner will not only learn from their own mistakes, they will also learn from the mistakes of others.
3. Double down on your commitment to succeed. You got knocked down but were able to get back on your feet. How do you feel now? Are you ready to run through the next series of obstacles? Do you have the strength to deal with adversity in 2014? Or will you let these obstacles keep you from achieving your goals this year?
If you look back on the history of your company, you will see that in every year of business you had to overcome at least one obstacle. Even the best years, when everything seemed to go your way, there was some adversity sprinkled into your success.
In his “Last Lecture” speech, Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch talked about the brick walls in our lives. He said, “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
Whether you've had a bad day, week, month, year, or longer, the beauty of the future is that it hasn’t been written yet. If you believe in yourself and have confidence in your business plan, then everything is possible. Now pay attention—here comes the next brick wall.
As the founder and CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, Brian helps entrepreneurs run better businesses. He was formerly the executive director at The Wall Street Journal, overseeing the financial and small-business markets across the WSJ franchise. From 2002 to 2010, Brian ran Veracle Media and Moran Media Group, content companies in the SMB market.