Recently, I spent two whole days at our local Mind Business School discussing how entrepreneurs can deal with adversity and difficult moments.
It is impossible for a two-dimensional blog post to convey the emotions, the painful blows, and the love that guide the choices of entrepreneurs, but it can still be very valuable to list the winning actions that have worked for them.
Listening to the stories of entrepreneurs who have overcome great adversity has lead me to a certain understanding: Those adversities may have seemed deadly and irreparable at the time, but in many cases within a couple of years – sometimes even sooner – they pass and life returns to normal. When it feels like everything is doomed, know there is still hope. Unless you make a terrible mistake, things can still turn out for the best.
Those who have survived similar situations found the following actions to be helpful:
1) Have a strong business partner who can keep your spirits up, or find someone in the company to conspire with
2) Have good legal support. Trust the best professionals with legal, accounting, and job counseling plans. It is very likely that you ended up in this situation precisely because the professionals you trusted weren’t actually the right ones. Never underestimate what’s going on around you. Find the best, and trust them.
3) Do not retreat or run away. Each of us, when struck by a scandal or a catastrophic event, instinctively feels the need to run and hide. When we are ashamed, we hide. Don’t do it though. Confront things and deal with them, and as you do, make yourself worthy of trust, talk to people, explain your point of view. Even if it’s uncomfortable at first, it will make you feel better in the end. If you have suppliers you can’t pay, don’t avoid them but instead communicate with them, explain the situation and give everyone a little hope. Pay them what you can as money comes in.
4) Be careful to generate (or continue to generate) cash flow. No matter what else you do, without cash flow, your business will disappear. In times of severe liquidity crisis, you need it to take over the margin.
5) You must have tenacity and tap into the emotional strength of who you really are. Be stubborn. Keep at it. Just when you’ve been backed into a corner and it seems that all is lost, that is when you can discover your extraordinary emotional strength and lucidity. You are the last soldier standing. At some point, this soldier will activate and give you a strength you never knew you possessed.
6) Spirituality, exercise, a sense of humor, and discipline can all help you to develop and maintain resilience.
7) When things are really bad, pointing fingers is useless. Instead, concentrate on solving the situation.
8) The right friends can work wonders: the ones who don’t judge you, those who have experienced situations like yours and lived to tell the tale. In times of adversity, you may find that people you once trusted will end up abandoning you. Don’t worry though, later you will recognize this as a great opportunity.
9) When you get hit hard, it’s easier to fight and survive if you believe that what you’re defending is not just a mere business, but a deeper purpose that will stand as your mark upon the earth for all those who come after. People who are just running a business will easily give up in times of difficulty. Those who pursue greater meaning often discover an extraordinary strength. Have the strength to plant trees, even if you will never rest in their shade. Build something for the future and for the world, and every crisis you face will simply be a passing storm. The universe tends to reward those who engage in a project that goes beyond simple personal benefit.
I fell ill in 2007, and was forced to take a step back from business in order to recover. For two years I had to delegate the management of the company to others. People who I paid very well. When I came back, the people I had trusted had abandoned me and shattered the company.
During difficult times, those I had thought friends ended up leaving me. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. You have to look at the brutal facts, how they are in reality, without filters. One of these facts is that many of your supposed friends will abandon you. I was in great difficulty and, paradoxically, this curse became my blessing. It prevented those people from giving me a death blow. My breakthrough took place in 2012 when I relaunched my company. Thanks to new projects, new employees, and a renewed mindset, I found confidence in the future.
When Muhammad Alì, the legendary boxer, asked how many sit-ups he did every day, he replied, “I don’t count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. Because they’re the only ones that count. That’s what makes you a champion.”
Those who are truly strong are not only motivated, but can stay so even in the face of adversity, failure, mistrust, and fear. This is what makes us indestructible.
This is what counts.