3 Types of Crises That Might Kill Your Business -- and How to Bounce Back
No matter your industry, business size or location, your company is bound to run into trouble along the way, which could mean life or death for your business, personal life -- or even both.
For these three business leaders, their unique set of challenges have forced them to develop a set of strategies to push their ventures forward in the face of adversity. These unbreakable founders show us how our own struggles can serve as an important catalyst in shifting your mindset and re-aligning your strategies for the future.
Linda Rottenberg is the CEO and founder of Endeavor, a non-profit organization that pioneered the field of high-impact entrepreneurship. She was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report.
When her company reached its 10-year anniversary, Rottenberg thought she was finally out of the woods battling through the company's biggest growing pains, when suddenly a forest fire swept through her personal and professional life: Rottenberg’s husband was diagnosed with life-threatening bone cancer, and she began to deal with her many physical issues of her own. She tells me, “Suddenly, I couldn’t get on planes anymore and could barely even show up to the office. I wasn’t sure if Bruce would survive, and honestly, I wasn’t sure if Endeavor would either.”
Rottenberg credits this horrific experience to her own personal development and says during her absence the company grew faster than ever, which she jokingly attributes to her not being there to micromanage the business.
How she bounced back:
As a result of this traumatic period, Rottenberg tells me, “As opposed to my close-vested past, I emerged more open and more vulnerable through this experience. The lesson: Rather than striving to be super human, I would aspire to be LESS 'super' and MORE 'human'!”
She focuses on spending as much time with her twin girls as possible, saying they keep her grounded and young. When her daughter was young, Rottenberg left her with a lasting piece of advice about the importance of remaining human: “Remember, you can be an entrepreneur for a short time, but you’re a mommy forever!”
Rejection and self-doubt
Josh Steimle is the founder of the digital marketing agency MWI and the author of Chief Marketing Officers at Work, a book which features candid interviews with people holding the top marketing roles within their organizations.
Steimle tells me between 1999 to 2007, he got pretty much zero exercise, and struggled with an eating disorder. By 2007, when he turned 33, he weighed in at 240 pounds, with no muscle, and struggled to walk up a single flight of 10 stairs.
At the end of 2006, he had hit rock bottom physically and was extremely depressed about his body. Steimle also had $500,000 of business debt and hadn’t been able to pay it back in four years. He was working 100-hour weeks, and nothing seemed to be working out. He tells me, “I applied to the Harvard Business School MBA program, figuring they would appreciate my in-the-trenches experience, and I didn’t even get an interview. I was soundly rejected. I was sitting there in my office reading the rejection letter and that’s when I realized something had to change or my wife was going to leave me and I was going to die young and unhappy.”
How he bounced back:
Steimle says he didn’t know how to fix the business, but he knew how to fix his health. “I needed to eat less and get some exercise. I started going to the gym, found an accountability partner to keep me motivated and started taking baby steps to improve my health.”
Steimle says when you start to improve one area of your life it spills into other areas. “Within six months I was paying off $10,000-$20,000 in debt each month, instead of digging myself that much deeper each month. I was paying myself. I was working 40 hours per week instead of 100, and sleeping at home instead of my office floor.”
Steimle lives by a fitness first principle. He says before he focuses on what is going on with his business, he focuses on getting out of the house to work out a few times a week. “I keep up a healthy lifestyle when it comes to what I eat. If I don’t keep that up, I’m afraid I’ll slip up in other areas of my life, and I’ll end up back where I was. When I put my health first, I am also putting my business first, because without my health my business also suffers.”
Sam Tarantino is currently the founder of Chromatic.fm, a personal radio to play and listen to new music broadcasted by real people in real time. Tarantino’s journey began when he founded Grooveshark, the disruptive music streaming service that built its following up to 35 million users, and later went on to lay off 140 employees.
Tarantino co-founded Grooveshark when he was 19 and had little to no experience. “Everything was learning on the fly and that involved making mistake after mistake. I call it the 'hall of mirrors' approach to learning where you keep bumping into a wall and that let’s you know where to turn vs where to go straight.”
His company was raising capital in a music industry that was fraught with failed startups so VCs were very hesitant about investing in the space. “On top of that we were raising money in the middle of the 2008 financial crises, which made it extremely difficult since there was so much fear around that time.”
Tarantino said things began to pile up even more when his company was sued by a group of major record labels, which made it impossible to have any sort of growth or exit despite having gotten as far as 35 million users and over $12 million a year in revenue. “Ultimately those challenges paled in comparison to having to shut the company down after our lawsuit settled and even more so compared to losing my co-founder and best friend Josh after nine years of overcoming all those challenges.”
He says the hardest part was definitely when it actually was over after nine years and the business did fail. “I was so afraid of what that process was going to be especially after having all our dreams come true like they were.”
How he bounced back:
Tarantino says it is important that you are not too attached to outcomes. “I spent so much effort and energy willing Grooveshark to succeed and ultimately there was nothing I could do to stop it’s eventually shut down.”
He says most of the moments he remembers are the ones with people he loved to work with and projects that he had a blast working on. “I liken it to river rafting/kayaking. You can move within the river but you’re stuck following its current and flow. Go with the current and put in the effort to move within it. Mostly though enjoy being on the river because it is a beautiful ride even though the rapids.”