I’ve had seven businesses over the past 20 years and let me tell you, they were not all entrepreneurial fairy tales. In fact, in those two decades, there were months of memories that still tie knots in my stomach.
How many times did I have my back against the wall, convinced there was no way out? Several. Maybe even a dozen. No two challenges were alike and they weren’t all startup related either. Even my mature businesses got blindsided from time to time.
Looking back on these nail-biting events, I’ve realized they all have one thing in common: I survived.
Not only did I survive these torturous ordeals, I learned, grew and prospered as a result of them. I became a better man and I built stronger businesses as a result of overcoming these obstacles.
During these trying times I had to swallow my pride and make the calls I’d rather not make. But what I found was that, in those darkest of entrepreneurial days, reaching out to a friend, mentor or partner represented a key turning point for my business. And before long, I was fielding the same types of calls asking for advice and guidance based on my own survival.
When things are going poorly – but you’re surviving – the status quo is alluring; even pragmatic. When you’re walking a tightrope, taking risks is much less appealing because you feel your business couldn’t survive one more bad turn. Yet when you find yourself flirting with insolvency – and the ‘let’s wait it out’ strategy means the end of your endeavour – your true priorities will rise to the surface and things become clearer. With fewer options open to you, the tough decisions will get made and your self-doubt will disappear.
Sometimes it’s when you feel most trapped that amazing things will happen. Fear or desperation can drive you out of your comfort zone and into those ‘what have I got to lose?’ situations. Bigger chances will be taken and bigger successes will come because the alternative – bankruptcy – is simply unacceptable.
I wouldn’t wish these moments on my worst enemy, but I don’t worry as much when I see them happening to people around me. Why? Because experience tells me that something exciting is about to change and whatever the outcome, survival and a new kind of prosperity are waiting around the corner.
Chris Griffiths is the Toronto-based director of fine tune consulting, a boutique management consulting practice. Over the past 20 years, he has started or acquired and exited seven businesses.