How To Overcome Entrepreneurial Challenges And Deal With Setbacks

Tim Sullivan
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Dealing with setbacks and challenges is a big part of being an entrepreneur. Things are going to happen that are out of your control, and it’s up to you—and no one else—to deal with them. We’ve all seen this in practice during the last few months with everything that’s going on in the world.

But part of why I love being an entrepreneur is that I’m in control of how I react to these setbacks and entrepreneurial challenges. In a traditional job, I would have to wait to hear from someone on high and do things the way they wanted. In the past, that didn’t always align with the way I felt, thought, or believed.

But now, I’m the one in control. I’m responsible for making the decisions and choices going forward—and that comforts me.

You already know how to overcome entrepreneurial challenges.

When I’m asked about how to overcome entrepreneurial challenges, my first piece of advice is to stop looking at them as challenges.

I’ve overcome a lot of setbacks in my time as an entrepreneur. When we were first starting out, I would even joke with my husband about converting our business to a non-profit since we weren’t making any money!

But over time, I learned how to overcome these challenges by flipping them around and looking at them as opportunities. When I do that, I’m able to use my Unique Ability, talents, and skill sets to create a bigger future for my company. And because no one else is going to look at these setbacks the way I do, it gives me a massive advantage!

I think that, for the most part, we already know how to overcome the vast majority of the entrepreneurial challenges we face. It’s in our DNA. After all, most entrepreneurs get bored when everything is going perfectly and nothing is changing—we need setbacks from time to time to give us a boost of adrenaline and find different ways of doing things.

Businesses around the world are changing due to COVID and many are seeing record numbers as a result. Those record numbers never would have happened without a setback.

I’ve found that there’s a silver lining to nearly every entrepreneurial challenge I’ve faced as I’ve grown my business: the pause button. Setbacks provide the perfect opportunity to hit pause, reflect, and plan your next moves.

This is the time to ask yourself, “Where do I really want to be? And how can I get there?”

So when we look at how to overcome entrepreneurial challenges, the answer is really quite simple. There’s nothing to overcome if you look at these setbacks for what they are—opportunities.

The freedom of being an entrepreneur.

Part of learning how to overcome entrepreneurial challenges is realizing the true freedom you have as an entrepreneur. You have the freedom to pivot and change anything you want. I often say that entrepreneurs are “master pivoteers” because we are better at pivoting than practically anyone else.

I love the metaphor of planes flying to describe the freedom we have as entrepreneurs and how we’re able to adapt. When a plane flies across the country from New York to Los Angeles, it’s on autopilot about 90 percent of the time. It’s making automatic adjustments the entire time to keep it on the right course, but ultimately it’s up to the pilot to first decide where they want to go and set the plane on that course.

As an entrepreneur, you’re the pilot. You have the freedom to decide where you want to go and set things in motion to get there. Then, once everything is in motion, all you need to do is keep making small adjustments to stay on the right course.

The situation we find ourselves in today is just like if you were forced to land that plane. Sure, it’s a setback—but it also means you now have the opportunity to reset and go to an entirely new destination.

Our business is almost 50 years old now, but it almost feels like an entirely new business today. We’ve had to shift our thinking and our activities to deal with the obstacles we’re facing today. That’s just part of owning a business and being an entrepreneur.

The value of being realistically optimistic.

The one thing you truly must have to overcome entrepreneurial challenges is optimism. And for the most part, entrepreneurs are intrinsically optimistic. We’re focused on the future and we generally have an optimistic outlook.

But there’s a difference between being blindly optimistic and being what I like to call realistically optimistic.

Successful entrepreneurs are realistically optimistic. They look at the reality of the situation and recognize the bad things that are going on. They face their entrepreneurial challenges head on. They know they can’t just block out the bad stuff and hope everything will work out.

But at the same time, they’re still optimistic. They have faith and they believe that things will get better. They know they’re ultimately responsible for their part of it and that their ideal future will only happen if they make the right decisions.

It’s important to stay optimistic when you’re learning how to overcome entrepreneurial challenges. Have faith and know that things will get better, but remember that your future is entirely up to you. If you want to come out of this better than you went in, you need to take responsibility and make the decisions that will get you there.

The golden rule.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love the golden rule. I’ve taught it to my children and they are currently teaching it to their children.

The golden rule is simple: Treat others as you would like to be treated. And it’s always relevant in business—both with your employees and your customers.

We own a janitorial service company, and our industry is known for having horrendous turnover rates. The annual average is right around 400 percent, and we were there 27 years ago. But when we started to really see the humanity in our business—with our customers, but primarily with our employees—we were able to quickly turn it around.

When we started to connect with our employees in a meaningful way, our turnover rates went down and our success went up. We were able to create more value for our customers because we had happy people delivering our services.

I think every business can learn from the golden rule. Every business revolves around people, both in terms of your customers and the people who are creating your products, delivering your services, and ultimately running your business.

Now, more than ever, we need to treat people the way we would like to be treated. Because when it comes down to it, people are all we have.

Now is the time to create value for your customers! Learn more by downloading The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Value Creation.

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