Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Failure – Post #3

Mad Hatter
When stuff hits the fan, don’t go mad!

Losing a major client probably is among the most painful of business failures. It happened to my firm in a spectacular fashion about 15 years ago when we were still starting out.  At that point we had six consultants and trainers working for us. When we lost a major piece of business from our largest client we had two choices: lay off four people (decimating our business in the process) or find some new clients – fast! I’m happy to report that we were able to replace the lost business in time to keep all of our people on board, but it was a difficult and stressful time that I hope never to repeat again.

During the crisis we instinctively understood that transparency with our folks was critical and we were diligent about keeping them updated on our efforts to secure new business. We also worked extremely hard to bring in new clients in record time, which included talking with everyone we knew who might possibly help us meet our goals.

After the crisis passed and we were able to think more long-term, we were determined never to let it happen again. Among the ways we used that experience to build more business resilience:

  • Diversifying our accounts so that no single client represented more than 10% of our business
  • Anticipating “worst case scenarios” and coming up with response plans well in advance.
  • Focusing on positive action versus allowing ourselves to be “jumpy” or overexcited. I have to confess that this was a personal lesson for me as well. I was a newer leader during that first major business crisis and let panic dictate my actions. I relentlessly hounded our ace sales leader about the new client situation as he worked around the clock to secure more business for our soon-to-be-laid-off consultants (sorry about that Ryan!).

Looking back now, I can see how this challenge forged growth for my company and me.

While painful, it laid the foundation for the successful business we are today.

Next post: Learning from emotional mistakes.