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WHAT TO DO WHEN THINGS JUST DON’T GO ACCORDING TO PLAN


explosion

How do you handle the fallout when something about your business either blows up or falls apart?

– It could be that large contract you were expecting that went to a competitor.

– Or the loss of your largest, most profitable client.

– Perhaps a disruption in your business process – such as when technology makes your key service obsolete. Even large companies with seemingly unlimited resources can get into trouble when dealing with these types of issues:

  •  Consider Kodak and how poorly they responded to digital photography. I remember a Kodak ad that was posted in a subway car that said “If your device has a ring tone, then it’s not a camera!” Unfortunately, that was their main response to the technology that was about to make them obsolete and which led them to a Chapter 11 restructuring. The bankruptcy made them focus on their core offerings, resulting in dropping what had been their signature products for decades.
  • When meeting potential clients, I used to brag about how voicemail could be sent to them as a wave attachment to an email – and it almost always got the “WOW” response. Until the day when the prospective client responded with: “What’s the big deal, Vonage already does that for me…” Now that certainly wasn’t a game changer, but it meant that I had to re-evaluate my sales presentation.

OUR BEST LAYED PLANS: We spend hours, months, sometimes years conjuring them up. We meticulously put them into place, and we’re excited when we set them into motion. And then thing go straight to hell and we’re left standing in front of a mess where we thought there would be success.

The point is that, although making plans is a smart business move, things rarely ever go exactly according to plan. So what do we do when we find our well-thought-out plans looking more like the last episode of The Twilight Zone rather than the season finale of Cheers?

IMPORTANT NOTE: These techniques also work well when dealing with personal losses and disappointments.

Consider these 3 tips to help get you back on track:

 

1) GET MAD!

Maybe you feel like throwing something or punching through a door. Mad works—it’s a normal response that channels frustration. The best part about getting mad is that it gets all that anger out of your system so you can clear some space for cleaning up the mess you have to deal with.

So, yeah: Go ahead and get mad. But in the process, don’t be a jerk. Your business partner, spouse, employees, or the clerk at Starbucks might be handy targets, but they don’t deserve to be on the receiving end of your anger. Instead, go ahead and get the “mad” out of your system, but remember that you’ll have enough of a mess to clean up without having to add a half-dozen apologies to the process!

 

2) LOOK FOR THE GOOD IN WHAT WENT WRONG!

Life’s messy and so is business! The odds are, if either WERE easy, they wouldn’t be called “life” and “business,” they’d be called “beer!” So when things explode, fall flat or otherwise don’t meet your expectations, it’s time for a serious evaluation to figure out what happened, what went wrong, and importantly, were there any good parts or lessons to be learned out of this whole messy scenario.

– If insanity means doing the same task repeatedly hoping to get a different result, then it would seem that the path to sanity is figuring out what worked and what you could do differently.

 

– FIRST, the negative, problem solving postmortem to identify what went wrong:

  • Did you meander outside of your core competencies as outlined in your Business Plan?
  • Did you perhaps violate some of the principles you established in your Purpose and Mission Statement?
  • Do you even have a Business Plan or Purpose/Mission Statement? (If not, that could be a hint pointing in the direction of where you need to investigate, as these are foundational tools for making important business decisions).

 

– NEXT, the positive: Since something is going to have to change if you want any shot at all of making your plan work, consider these 4 key questions:

  • What was the best part of the overall negative outcome?
  • What surprised you?
  • What would you like to expand upon in the next iteration?
  • Who do you need on your team to make the next attempt successful?

 

The important point in these questions is the one thing they have in common: THEY’RE ALL POSITIVE! This isn’t the time to beat yourself up and dwell on what DIDN’T work because – guess what: You already know what didn’t work!

Instead, this is the time to figure out what did work and then start building from there.

 

3) GET SOME HELP!

Asking for help is hard, but it’s a critical skill for all of us to practice on a regular basis. We get so caught up in our own ideas and our own visions of success, and the way we feel things ought to be in business that it’s easy to become trapped in a lack of perspective.

In fact, make an effort to surround yourself with people care enough about you to disagree with your assumptions, when appropriate! You’ll find them annoying, but if they have a positive attitude and care enough about you to be honest, get over it! An outside perspective can go a long way to identify the better path.

  • Consider creating a Mastermind group. Create a trusted, small group of colleagues with whom you can share ideas and challenges on a regular basis? Grab a group of three to four folks across varying industries, and set a regular monthly meeting time to talk challenges and solutions. The critical part is that there has to be an honest effort by all to be transparent, vulnerable, and willing to accept criticism. I know several business owners who did just this, and they attribute their success to the group they formed.
  • Consider hiring a business advisor. They can offer perspective while holding you accountable to make the necessary adjustments.

So go ahead and get mad. But when you’re done being mad, get back to work, be positive and plan for the better outcome the next time around!

Jeff Mehl