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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.

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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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