Navigating Entrepreneurial Whiplash
It’s the middle of the week. I wake up and have one of those client project meetings where I feel completely in my zone. Other than a literal case of the hiccups in the middle of the video conference, it couldn’t have gone better. I’m on top of the world. I’m rocking my purpose. I'm living my passion. I’m serving my client. I’m hearing how smart and strategic I am. Dang, this is a good day.
I close the video conference and then check my email. "Sorry, but we went another direction…” pops off the screen and bitch smacks me across the face. Ouch.
This, my friends, is entrepreneurial whiplash. Where you go from the highest of business-rocking highs to infuriated and disappointed in 0.37 seconds flat.
It’s part of business. And managing these highs and lows is essential if you want to stay in the game. Here are three tips that you can use to keep your head on straight and keep moving forward.
Have a mini pity party, and then evaluate.
Entrepreneurship is emotional. If you take the emotion out of it, you might as well go back to that 9-5 you left. When you lose a contract, get beat out on a deal, or find out a client went another direction, take a minute to throw a mini pity party. We can’t be focused and making the best decisions when emotions are driving 100 percent of a reaction. You’ve got to get them out, or at least under control.
Whether you’re like me and grudgingly mutter a few choice words and do some toddler-style tantrum arm flailing or you have a more constructive way of handling it, get that frustration out. Then, regroup and evaluate. What could you have done differently that is within your control? Respond to the message -- or even more rare in today’s world -- pick up the phone. Thank the potential client for considering you for the opportunity and ask for, or provide, ideas for how you might collaborate in the future.
Analyze your steps, gather data, and change your approach.
When you get rejected, deferred, or politely passed over, it’s natural to wonder, Why? Sometimes it feels like failure. But, as cliché as it may sound, failure means you actually tried. So now it’s time to analyze the steps you took in your attempt. Is there something you could alter? Is there a variable that you could change? Is there a message you could test? Can you pinpoint where the tables turned? Oftentimes in doing this analysis you’ll find patterns that can help you alter the course for future encounters.
Let’s take a communication angle for a first level of analysis. For example, do you notice a trend of “thanks but no thanks” messages after multiple email exchanges? Is this trend the same when phone calls are involved? What about video conferences? In person meetings? Gathering this data -- in this case from a communication channel perspective -- can help you see patterns in your business process. It can help you change your approach to be more successful in future interactions.
Recognize forward progress, even the little steps.
A “parent-ism” that was passed down to me was, “don’t talk about it, be about it”. For me, this advice has helped guide so much of my personal and professional progress. But where this parental guidance fell short, in my opinion, is not extending to, “and once you are about it, step back and recognize your progress”. I’m not talking about throwing blown-out celebrations for every little step forward you make in business. I am talking about paying attention to the little victories that keep you and your employees motivated along the way.
For me, I take more joy than I probably should in ripping a sticky note in half after accomplishing a task. Even in that simple motion is a recognition of something that moved the business forward. On the days where I feel that I’ve done nothing, I can look down at those discarded shreds of paper and recognize that what I’m feeling is different than the reality. Create your own rituals and benchmarks that you can celebrate. This will help keep the focus on forward motion and possibilities, instead of missed opportunities.