When you run a small business, lots of things can go wrong. Customers don't pay. Suppliers don't come through. Contractors don't provide the work on time. These are the realities of life.
When these things happen, they're often like a sucker punch to your cash flow, which, for a small business, is their lifeblood. Businesses can go under or experience a major rough patch during these stressful times, sometimes requiring a cash infusion.
It's often normal for small business owners to look for someone to blame when these things happen. "It was the supplier's fault," one might say, or "it was all the untrustworthy customer's fault."
In truth, though, it's your fault.
These types of events are par for the course for small businesses. They're going to happen eventually. Someone you rely on is not going to come through when you need them to.
The question is what happens in that case? Does your business fold like a house of cards? Or does it survive the crisis and go on to greater success?
The difference between those two outcomes isn't the customer or the supplier or the bank. It's you.
Are you planning ahead for those kinds of scenarios? Do you know what you'll do if your supplier fails to deliver or if a customer fails to pay? Do you have a plan in place and the leadership to execute that plan regardless of your own feelings about the problem?
That is the essence of responsibility, and it's the secret sauce of any successful small business. Take it away and you have a business that fails the first time something adverse happens - and Murphy's Law dictates that something adverse will happen sooner rather than later.
Are you truly responsible for your small business? Do you look for others to blame when there are problems, or do you look at yourself and ask yourself what you can do to prevent this situation in the future? When the chips are down, do you retreat into your office and not speak to the people around you, or do you step up to the plate with candor, provide some solutions and reassurances, and do what needs to be done to make your business survive the crisis?
Every day, you make this choice in your business. Do you spend time developing contingency plans with any regularity? Do you plan budgets with bad scenarios in mind so that you know how to spend money in a crisis? Do you think about the problems now with a clear mind so that you're not making poor judgments later on when you're facing the emotional draw down of a crisis?
If you don't know where to start, I recommend doing two things.
First, envision five scenarios that would be very difficult for your business. Maybe a customer doesn't pay up. Perhaps a supplier doesn't come through. What if a key employee suddenly quits? Look at your business and consider events that would be painful.
Then, come up with a detailed plan for how you handle these scenarios. Your plans shouldn't involve hunting for blame. Instead, the plans should dictate exactly how you would get through the problem. If you find that you don't currently have the resources for the best plan, you now have a goal to work towards - acquiring those resources.