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What to Do With a Major Windfall

That unexpected windfall may feel like winning the lottery, but if you aren't careful, it could wreak havoc on your business.

This story appears in the July 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

John Daly's Florida software business got a boost from a law spurred by the 9/11 attacks. New York entrepreneurs Benjamin and Autumn Lido received a surprise call that resulted in a big order from a customer they'd never considered. After many frustrating struggles with patent infringement litigation, snowboard-binding inventor Jeff Sand was able to lock up leading market share by blocking a competitor from bringing product into the country. All these entrepreneurs benefited from major windfall events that were unexpected, unpredictable or both. In the wake of the windfalls, they found that a stroke of luck can do a lot to help a company. An unexpected gain can help expand production, pay off debts, fund new marketing and generate excitement among employees.

But a godsend isn't necessarily a gimme. If not handled correctly, a bonanza can even turn out to be a bust. If an entrepreneur is blinded by what looks like a golden opportunity, overoptimism can lead to overexpansion or overcommitment. For not a few entrepreneurs, this would-be blessing has turned into a curse. So if you want to make the most of an unexpected gain, you have to manage it carefully.

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