How do you recover from the loss of your business?

29 Nov

Titanic sinking

Sometimes good brands don’t survive. It’s the law of nature.

When a brand starts to go under, it’s natural for the owner to feel a sense of personal failure. After all, they identify with their brands, infuse them with their energy, and live the business 24/7. Even when they’re not on, they’re on.

Taking advice at such a time isn’t easy. Remember the captain on the bridge in the movie Titanic? Aghast and stricken numb while his crew barked at him and passengers leapt into the waters.

The owner is the one who has to stay with the business until the cold, final plunge.

Sometimes it’s the owner’s fault. Inept management, a flawed pricing strategy, weak pipeline activity, and dozens of other potential cock-ups – all can be the responsibility of the owner.

At other times, it’s outside forces. Increased competition, the economy, deregulation of the market, insufficient working capital, loss of key staff or clients, bad bloody luck…. they all have the potential to drag a company under.

But whatever the underlying issues that set the business on its date with disaster, the owner needs to push himself off from the wreckage and focus on survival.

The lessons learned from this experience are the reward for having had to go through it. Like all lessons, they are best applied fresh.

As soon as the staff are looked after, and the lease, assets and debt issues resolved (made that seem easy didn’t I!) it’s time to plot a successful return.

You have to understand that your next business venture is Resurrection.

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

  • Make a list of the lessons you’ve learned, starting with the most painful.
  • Make a second list of the things you won’t ever do again.
  • Make a third list of the people who kicked you when you were down. Hopefully it is a very short list. Memorize it and destroy it.
  • Make a fourth list of the people who stood by you and supported you through this. Keep it forever.
  • Write a description of what your ideal post-catastrophe incarnation looks like: Is it consultancy to keep your head in the game until you’re in a better space to thread the needle again? Is it a part-time job that allows you some time to regain your senses? You will no doubt have significant financial pressures, so you may need to have more than one job on the go. One of the toughest transitions for an owner who has lost his business is getting into the groove and culture of an entirely new brand. It’s like jumping from a failed marriage right into a brand new one. The shift takes time and patience from those who take you on.

Soon enough, your business sense and professional skills will find a focus. The cash will start to flow again, your confidence will return, and your thoughts will inevitably turn to the next entrepreneurial push.

Now is the time to go back and read Lists 1 & 2.

All empires fall, but the lessons live on. Be the lesson, not the empire.

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14 Responses to “How do you recover from the loss of your business?”

  1. hitgirl November 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    Wonderful and hard won wisdom, Mr. Brown.

    • Doug Brown November 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

      That fourth list is the most powerful learning of all Sandy.

      • hitgirl November 29, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

        One of the most poignant things you ever said to me was “lead”. That advice came during a time (wait a minute, it’s still that time!) of great uncertainty. Coping through uncertainty is tough enough, but leading? You set the bar high and I admire you a great deal for meeting it.

      • Doug Brown November 29, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

        Thank you Sandy. You’re a good person to have in my corner!

  2. TV Amanda November 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    This comes from the heart I know. The hardest thing is to pick yourself up and carry on, when all you want to do is sit down and disappear for a while. That and looking back and being real about where it went wrong and how much of that you have to take responsibility for. It’s that and the getting up and carrying on and learning from your mistakes that turns boys into men I think. Great advice here, especially given the tough economic climate we’re in.

    • Doug Brown November 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

      Thank you Amanda. Sometimes you just need to get bitten before you realize that Tasmanian Devils make lousy pets.

      With so much office space for lease downtown, I know there are lots of businesspeople suffering similar fates. This was really for them. Resurrection is one of the most powerful experiences in life, in whatever form it takes. It almost (but not quite) makes it all worth it.

  3. Lynne DeCew November 29, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    Brilliantly put, as usual. I especially like the “failed marriage” analogy. Whether it’s a job, a business or relationship, recovery time is needed before you to commit to something new. And when the time comes, you proceed with caution.

    • Doug Brown November 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

      Yes, proceed with caution. And don’t try to reply to comments on your blog post while you’re walking and there are curbs to step over. 😉
      Thanks Lynne!

  4. dongrgic November 29, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    Doug. Brilliant. Thank you for sharing. What can I say.. They are all tough lessons but it is important to move on and not dwell on the hurt and anger because it does not help you recover or as you say “resurrect”.

    There comes a time when most entrepreneurs look back at the failures and crack up laughing… not because it’s funny, (all right for me after a while it has become crack up funny) but because of the lessons learnt and knowing that many others will come after them, learning the same hard lessons and they can say “been there, done that and moved on” with pride.

    The analogy is great.. and it also makes me crack up in laughter, but there is no way of moving forward without the hard lessons.

    One thing I tend not to agree with is caution. I agree with risk management and mitigation but after an NDE (near death experience) you can get too cautious and not take risks which inevitably entrepreneurship is all about. I think it’s important to get back on the horse as quickly as you can after falling of.

    I find your posts both educational and entertaining.
    Cheers
    Don @dongrgic

    • Doug Brown November 29, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      You’ve walked that walk Don, so this is not new territory for you. Thank you for taking the time to share your insights. One of the lessons a business owner can learn through this process is that simply owning a business doesn’t make you an entrepreneur. That’s a mindset. So with that goes the appetite for risk.

      So many lessons to learn in life, heh?

      • dongrgic November 29, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

        Yeah… So much to do… so little time.

  5. Eleanor Rosenberg November 30, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    What a thoughtful post Doug, thank you for sharing in such a positive light.

    • Doug Brown November 30, 2012 at 10:01 am #

      Eleanor, thank you for reading and leaving such a sweet comment!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 12 posts that told the story of 2012 « Brand Intervention - December 22, 2012

    […] How do you recover from the loss of your business? […]

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