What do you do when business goes bad?
If you spend a lot of time following entrepreneurs on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest, then you’re probably flooded with #girlboss hashtags, inspirational quotes and pics of these #ladybosses sipping drinks on the beach.
I get it…it’s inspirational (sorta). Similar to watching a really skinny girl mow down on pizza (you’re a wee bit envious because you’d get fat doing that, but you’re sorta happy someone seems to be able to get away with it).
So anyway, we are flooded with inspiration and in the process, also mired by jealousy because running your own business is SOOO good…until it isn’t.
In the last 16 months (since starting my brick and mortar skincare studio), I’ve been on the biggest entrepreneurial roller-coaster of my life. I’ve gone through a business divorce that ended BADLY, I’ve had sketchy employees steal from me, break the law and lie to my face. I’ve had furious clients complain about ridiculous things (that I’ve had to grit my teeth and apologize for) and I’ve been a helpless heap of exhaustion after 12 days of non-stop labor where I’m so tired I can’t even muster up the strength to WASH MY FACE (AHEM, I’m an esthetician…I LOVE washing my face!!)
This all sounds SUPER sexy, right?
Sorry sweets, I’m not going to sugarcoat the reality of what can (and likely will happen) to even the best souls who decide to “play big” in this world.
But contrary to how this all might sound, this isn’t a blog post to complain about how hard entrepreneurship is. This post is meant to serve as a piece of TRUE inspiration when shit hits the fan in your business (because pictures of cocktails on the beach won’t cut it!)
The Loss of Innocence:
I titled this post the way that I did, because 2 years ago I was a very different person. While I don’t feel I’m a pessimist, I DO feel that somewhere in the last 18 months, I’ve lost my innocence. Back then I was giddy and my thirst for entrepreneurial adventure could not be quenched. I also assumed that because I had good intentions and because I had integrity, that everything would work out pretty well for me. And in many ways, it DID work out well!
My business was out of the red within a month of opening. I’ve grown our revenue to multiple five figure months (on the regular) and we have a team and a following that I adore. We’ve worked with (literally) thousands of clients, developed a killer product line and are regularly written up in and around Portland. The business is doing well…but, there have been a LOT of bumps on the road that made me question everything and left me crest-fallen more than a time or two.
I’m not a negative person now, but I am aware of the shadows that exist when you play in this type of light. And if you think that being a “good person” will protect you from these shadows, then quit reading now and enjoy your innocence while it lasts.
I’m sort of a private person, so sharing this post isn’t easy however, I did want to be fairly open with y’all about the fact that everything hasn’t been “easy” this past little while. I wanted to be honest with you because I think a lot of you get where I’m coming from and have suffered some similar setbacks. And sometimes you suffer through these alone because it’s hard to show up and be honest about the challenges associated with entrepreneurship…most people just want the success stories.
How to pick yourself back up:
Ok, so we have setbacks. We lose our innocence. But…we still have these business(s) to run and we still have our emotional investment in our clients, customers and our success.
So how to we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off?
Here are my top 3 recommendations:
1. Share that shit– Each time that I’ve been blindsided or burdened by something in business that is BIG and out of the ordinary, I’ve found a trusted advisor to confide in. Sometimes it’s embarrassing when people do you wrong (victim syndrome here, but seriously applies) and so it helps to have a level-headed person to share the details with. I personally have a coach I work with who I trust 100% and she has been my go-to when something bad happens. She has my back, is as objective as possible and supports me fully. The very act of getting something off your chest will lighten your load and help to clear up your energy.
2. Stick up for yourself- I’ve found that it’s not always “easiest” to stick up for myself. I’ve seen a trend in many lady businesses owners who seem to struggle with this too. So sometimes when something bad happens or someone does you wrong, it feels easier to look the other way and move on, but I can tell you from way TOO much experience that this is only a bandaid solution to the problem.
Example: Months ago I caught one of my employees stealing from my company. I had come into our studio late at night to drop something off that had been shipped to my personal address and I saw a purse sitting on the floor sort of thrown off to the side and open. I thought that maybe I wasn’t alone, so I called out but no one answered. I peeked in the purse and was about to look for a wallet to see which employee had left it there when I saw about 10-12 large product samples sitting in the purse. Granted, these weren’t full size products (because those were traceable and tracked), but these samples were something that we had to pay for as a business and were only meant for client use. Clearly this employee was taking them because she knew we weren’t tracking them and she didn’t want to buy her own products. I had a terrible sinking sense in my gut that this employee was stealing from me. The worst part was that I wasn’t surprised because I had never quite been able to trust this gal or put my guard down around her. I knew deep down that something wasn’t “right” with her.
Long story longer, I didn’t mention anything and left her purse exactly as was. Hoping she would find it (as I had), with all the products sitting in the open as she had left them and that we would have a mutual understanding that I KNEW what she was up to. Pretty passive on my part…but I didn’t want to rock the boat and this particular employee was very well liked by the other staff and by many clients (she was VERY cunning and manipulative, so the fact that others fell into her web was no surprise).
So, I turned my cheek and eventually she put in her notice. We parted on good terms. She was going to start a competing business using all the skills and tools I had trained her in (quite common in this industry) and she was honest with me about it, so I appreciated that. However once she left, it all came out that she had attempted to take our clients with her (very illegal and wrong in so many ways).
At this point, our research shows that she has stolen in the thousands from us (in lost business that she poached) and products (she appeared to be supplementing her own stuff stealing our inventory…slowly stealing so that she could build up her own back-bar of products for when she left our company and stole our clients to start her own.)
The whole thing sucks, but it could have been avoided had I stuck up for myself and my company at the first sign of abuse or had I simply listened to my gut and not hired this gal in the first place!
So don’t wait for things to get TERRIBLE. Nip that stuff in the bud, even if it’s super uncomfortable and awkward to do so.
3. Forgive, but don’t forget- The situation above is one of many that has left a terrible taste in my mouth. If I let “all the things” get to me for very long…then I wouldn’t have the energetic capacity to run my business.
Instead, I’ve had to learn to forgive myself (for the mistakes that helped lead to some of the bigger issues…including my passiveness) and to forgive others also. Neither has been easy, but I’ve had to learn to acknowledge the wrongs, decipher the lessons within them and then forgive and move on.
While I won’t be hosting any tea parties or attempting friendships with some of these weasels, I’ve learned to have a light (almost forgiving) take on each situation. Yes, I am absolutely pursing legal damages for the situation that I described (that is sticking up for myself), however I’ve had to release the emotionality from it.
It hasn’t been easy and there are still days where it rolls over me like a cloud and casts an unfavorable light on my day, but for the most part, I’ve just had to let it go and MOVE ON!
The BEST thing about all of this (that might make you feel WAY better), is that business kept getting better despite a lot of the crap that happened over the last 16 months. I’ve kept up my hustle, over-delivered to as many clients as I can and we are continually reaping the rewards of our hard work.
So even if you had a crap month and some crap people who’ve managed to bring you down, chin up…it doesn’t mean that your business has to suffer because of it.
Need someone to vent to? Vent my way! Yes, I’m a business strategist (and not a therapist), but I’ve got your back and I’m here when you need me!