We all get bad news from time-to-time.  Sometimes it can seem devastating.  The secret is in how you choose to deal with it.  Fifteen years ago this month I was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer.  Reflecting back, it actually made me stronger. There are some valuable lessons for your business too.

1.Handling the Shock; First Steps to Recovery

When you get terrible news, the first stage is stunned shock, then panic. This period of being frozen is natural, but you can’t stay there. Start sorting through the situation and figure out how you will move forward.

For me, that first step was to do lots of research to discover the best treatment, any options, and learn more about the doctor.  I narrowed my focus to only that first step, not even considering the (rather dire) probable outcome.

You might relate to losing your one big customer.  Maybe they had sudden budget cut or were acquired by another company.  It’s not your fault, but totally changes your future.  Now what? You have to figure out what’s your first step in recovery, and also how you will make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Whether illness or a business disaster, don’t just go with your first knee-jerk response.  Take a step back and evaluate options before formulating a plan. Approach your situation with just the first step in mind – that can make it much easier to get rolling again and you’ll avoid being overwhelmed.

2. Know What You Can and Cannot Control

No matter what disaster you are facing, there are some things over which you have no control. I could not change the fact that I had cancer and was facing six months of chemo.  However, there were things that I could control and that’s what I zeroed in on.

One biggie was avoiding infection. I became near-obsessive with cleanliness, contacts, and closed spaces.  Another was asking for what I needed, without making assumptions about approvals. I had remarkably positive results.

This is a time to be proactive. First, don’t rail against what you cannot change.  That’s a waste of energy and resources. As you work to land new clients, rigorously control those elements that you can, such as sales activity, spending or memberships.   To turn things around quickly, go after the types of clients most likely to work with you right away, even if on smaller projects.  Build your base for the long-term, but focus on quick hits for now.

3. Seek Help that Works for You

de_hairMany people encouraged me to join a cancer support group. That was not a good solution for me. As a person often leading groups, I knew that my tendency to lead would be triggered, and my own needs would go unspoken and unmet.  Instead, I sought help from a few close friends and my brother, Howard.

It’s smart to know what will work best for your particular situation. Don’t just accept the advice of the expert, but play it out in your mind how everything will work. Look for those who can provide the specific assistance you need: business advisors, associations or colleagues who have gone through similar situations.

Just as cancer has a huge impact on family and friends, sudden changes in your business can be very hard on your employees.  Often they feel helpless and don’t know what to do or say. They aren’t sure how to help. Your people need reassurance. How can they be involved and part of the solution? Make this a team effort.

Today I’m Thriving, and so is business

de_with_bikeComing out of cancer treatment, I had to rebuild my health and stay that way.  That included taking on an exercise regimen that I had never done before – doing triathlons. The effort has paid off in so many ways. I’ve competed in world-championship triathlons and have continued to grow my consulting business.  I also have an amazing group of supportive friends.

As a business leader, once you get past the hardship, strategize about how you can avoid the same disaster. If you’ve been dependent on one large client, do what can you to avoid falling back into this single client focus again.

Becoming a healthy, growing company will keep you on the right track for continued success and make you more resilient should any new disaster show up.