How to Deal with Setbacks in Small Business



We hate to use cliches but they really do apply when it comes to dealing with small business setbacks. After all (here we go): you’ve put your heart and soul into your business; blood, sweat and tears (so many tears!); moved mountains; and worked your arse off to get your small business up and running. A setback in the midst of this – whether personal or financial – can not only be shocking and painful, but also leave you completely bereft and unsure of how to continue moving forward with your venture.

How to cope? How to fix it? How to get back on track!? We’ve got you. Read on below for our tips on how you can tackle the dreaded setback, cut through the overwhelm and transform your worst problem into a winning solution.

Expect that setbacks will happen

In an alternate universe there’s a place where small businesses thrive without fear of financial loss nor difficult customers nor  and business life, as we would know it, is forever hunky dory.

PSA: we do not live in that world.

The first thing to come to terms with when starting your own business – the big, bad reality check – is accepting that there will be setbacks. The thought of this will likely make you feel a bit yucky. Try not to shy away from it, though. Instead, use the inevitability of this to your advantage by writing down a list of all the possible setbacks you and your small business could encounter, followed by how you’re going to deal with them if/when they arise.

Anticipating where your setbacks might occur is a great way to preventing them because:

1) when they do, they’re not so horrifying, and;

2) you’ll be able to deal with them in a much more level-headed way

Trust us, once you’ve done this you will feel so much better. Not only will you have your safety net in place, you’ll also have a solid framework to build the tiers of your small business around.

Keep calm and carry on

While this one may seem obvious, we’re here to spell it out for you one more time: when that dreaded setback occurs, flipping the f out is not going to make your problem go away; it’s going to make it appear and feel far, far worse.

What is going to help, though, is taking a few very deep breaths. Got an app with comforting sounds or guided meditation to soothe you? Plug yourself in. (check out our article on productivity if you don’t, there’s some rippers in there) Have a happy place, like a cafe or a local park, you can wind down in? Skip off to that spot to find your zen. What about a bottle of nice wine you’ve been waiting to open? Now’s the time to pop it open and pour yourself a generous glass.

Once you’ve calmed down (at least enough to feel like the overwhelm won’t swallow you whole), you’ll be able to access the situation with a level head and from a much better place – one that doesn’t involve your whole world going up in flames.

Mistakes happen: learn from them

Unless you’re related to E.T., we must all accept that we’re human and therefore, we make mistakes. And the depressing reality of making mistakes in business – especially ones you didn’t anticipate – is that they’re a nuisance to your customers, potentially detrimental to your brand if not handled correctly and often costly to your business. Bonus: they’re bound to leave you feeling gross and sad and down on yourself – all feelings that are completely acceptable in your scenario. *insert a bajillion crying emojis here* BUT you can turn this doom and gloom into something that benefits you.

One of the crucial elements that separates successful solopreneurs and small business owners from those who aren’t is learning from your mistakes. Channel your energy into understanding why you’ve had this setback and learning how to deal with it when the sh*t hits the fan in the future (or, double bonus, preventing the issue altogether) is an excellent use of your time during business crisis.

This might mean you need to upskill in a certain area or reexamine your business plan. Whatever it is, learning is an important way to keep your small business thriving (and a neat way to show off your newfound skills to your mates)

Focus less on changing your mind, and more on changing your perspective

Setbacks are shite, there’s no denying it. We’re not above feeling crappy and we don’t expect you to be either. Totally fine, totally acceptable, totally relatable. Sometimes you just need to feel the thing.

And once you have, it’s how you observe the situation that’s more in important. Think about your setback in detail. Now that the issue has occurred, how can you remedy it or improve it? And, in turn, what will that improve?

You’ll often find that there are other areas of your small business that need work, you simply couldn’t see it until now. This setback might put you in contact with a new and better supplier, open up your small business to new customers or see your work flow be completely revamped – the list is endless. And all of this wouldn’t have been possible without this issue, this setback.

Don’t worry, setbacks still suck – we’re with you on that. But perspective? It’s a beautiful thing.

Call in the experts (if you need them)

When our setbacks occur, it can be tempting to try to fix it all yourself. Relying on others doesn’t come so naturally to us self-employed folk. I’m sure many of us solopreneurs and small business owners would attest that our work is so much more than just a money maker – it’s our baby. And our first instinct when our baby is hurt is to find a way to make it better. However, in business, sometimes this can only make things worse. It’s likely that, at this moment, you’re simply too close to the situation, or far too stressed out to remedy it right now.

Take your time to catch your breath, then ask yourself: is this a problem that’s beyond you?

If you really, truly believe you can tackle it on your own, power to you. But if not, call in someone who can help.

In moments like these it’s important to channel your energy into the most valuable places, and while it might seem like the world is ending, taking that step back to calm yourself and assess the situation – including whether or not you need to be involved – will make you feel so much better once it’s been resolved.

Most importantly: maintain a positive mindset

It’s 100000% sucky that, after all your hard work, you’ve now hit this setback roadblock. We hear you. But throughout everything that’s happening – the setback occurring, dealing with the problem, getting back on your feet and moving your small business forward – you’ve got to keep yourself strong.

Shutting everyone out, curling up into a ball and endlessly weeping does nothing for you and absolute zilch for your business.

A positive mindset, on the other hand, is worth its weight in suitcase loads of dolla dolla bills.  Staying optimistic and seeing the goodness and benefits that can come from your setback are key to moving forward and coming back bigger, better and stronger than before.

You’ve got this.

You’ve got this.

Samantha Kodila