As a business owner, there is no worse feeling than seeing your business falter. It is scary and you feel like no matter what you do, it is like throwing oil onto the fire. I could recount several stories of my clients that have business, go through low points or even close. It was hard for me to watch them go through the difficult moments, but I have had my own downturns in business and I will tell you how I survived.
In the first half of 2011 I made a lot of money. It was the most I had ever made at that point in my business in the first half of the year. Summer is usually slow, so I was not surprised when I did not bring in a lot of business. But for the first time, I was not struggling through the summer months. I felt good. No, I felt great. But in September of that same year, I did not get any new clients. I did not get any new clients in November or December. It was terrible. By the beginning of 2012 I was in a full blown panic. Trying to figure out what was going on and how to fix it.
Nothing I did seem to work and by June 2012 I was in a depression. I could not pay my bills. Everything was falling apart and I did not know what to do. There were some rays of hope, but it was hard for me to recognize at the time. I wanted to give up and find something else to do but what? I did not know how to do anything else. I did not have the money to start over. So I just kept going to my office hoping that things would turn around.
Eventually they did, and business started picking up again. But I still have the scar tissue from that time. I will never forget it. There are things that I did right and things that I did that were wrong.
Wrong move - I failed to prepare!
If you have been through a serious downturn in your business, you know that it is hard to deal with. You never expect things to happen this way. In fact, you barely even see it coming. That was my problem. After 11 years in business, I did not have any savings to get me through the tough times. While I knew that conventional wisdom was to save at least 6 months of operational costs, I never did.
I lived off of everything that I did and I did not make an effort to save for the business nor myself. So when things fell apart, I literally had no income. Nothing! And that led to chaos not only in my business, but at home as well.
Right move - I understood what the problem was and changed!
While I was busy crying over my business, I tried to figure out what went wrong. In my endless question and answer period with myself and some friends, I learned that the legal industry was going through a recession. Many of the larger law firms had stopped hiring and were letting people go. The industry as a whole was going through a downturn and I was a victim.
Because I had a small firm, it was affecting me in a greater degree. I had to let my only employee go as I could not afford to pay her anymore. I also had to cut expenses at the office and make some serious changes. Since everything has now been on me to do, I had to employ technology in a way that I had never done before.
Things eventually turned around and clients started coming in again. I took in more litigation clients and I began taking on additional probate cases as well. Prior to that I had not sought to enter into those areas. Financially, it helped, and I have gained a new respect for making necessary changes even when you do not want to. It was a painful process, but if it ever happens again, I will be prepared for it and ready to move forward wherever the winds take me.
Shahara Wright is an experienced and highly sought after business law attorney and business strategist. She is the author of From Entrepreneur to CEO and host of the CEO Collaboration Circle. Shahara founded The CEO Effect, LLC to work with small business owners who want to implement strategy to build capacity.
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