Working your business when your business doesn’t work

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David FullerIn the winter of 1987, my startup company Winewear Fashions had cash flow problems. Not only could I not take wages, but I hadn’t been able to pay bills for several months without putting cash into the business.

I took a job on the side selling books door to door in Vancouver to pay for my room and board and fuel.

Owning the business made it appear as if I was successful but the reality was somewhat different. Not only was I troubled that sales had stagnated, but I was severely burned out and worried about how I was going to pay my shareholders back. They had put up their money to invest in my vision of this fantastic product and company.

It seemed that winter that time stood still and I doubted my ability to survive.

Time has stood still for me a number of times in my business career when I’ve been in the middle of intense struggle. When we go through tough times, what might have been weeks, months or even years of trouble and turmoil seem to go on forever.

Those times are burned into our memories as periods of penetrating pain and as we endure them, the days seem unending. Nights can seem longer than the days with interrupted or broken sleep, tossing and turning with minds that don’t shut off.

Right now, business owners and leaders face incredible challenges they’ve never before been forced to deal with. In the past several months, I’ve worked with business owners who are struggling with flat or declining sales, people problems including worries about laying off employees, and in some cases not being able to find people who want to work.

Some leaders are feeling overwhelmed because they don’t have any plans to deal with their challenges. Others have been forced to delay their plans to exit their businesses.

Add the challenges of remote work, accountability issues, and cash flow issues and it’s not surprising that many business leaders feel time is standing still.

In times like this, we need to remember we can’t do it alone. We need to engage our teams, ask for help from our families and put trust in our faith.

Hopefully, things will improve, but some organizations won’t make it and if yours is one of those, you need to realize that the failure of your business doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a person. This can be hard to grasp for leaders who have put their hearts and souls into all that they do.

When our businesses don’t work, due to an unpredictable economy, we need to work and think differently. Stepping out of the weeds of the business can be difficult. Yet unless we change our perspective, we’re going to continue to work in the same way and get the same results.

We have to put serious energy into looking at what’s working for us and what’s not and make a decision to adjust our strategies. Those strategies might include options we’ve never considered before.

When we’re in the middle of what we were wishing for, but it’s not as we dreamed it would be, the mental anguish can be intense. We need to remember that time isn’t standing still and we will get through this, just as we have with challenges in the past.

The outcome might not be exactly as we hoped but, in some cases, different might even be better. Don’t give up hope.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Time standing still for you? Email [email protected]

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working your business

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