Guest Column | February 14, 2019

4 Ways Business Owners Can Stay Strong When Things Get Rough

By Daniel Steyskal, Trapezoid Business Services

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When trying to save your struggling business success comes from love, not blame.

When working through issues, be sure to focus on solutions, not blame. Blaming people feels good, feels productive; it’s like your acting like a real business executive.

However, at the end of the day, business owners who blame accomplish very little besides alienating those around them, even those not the subject of scorn. The motto of Trapezoid is “Solutions Oriented” because I adopted this stance after seeing countless clients dig deeper and deeper holes. When a business is not doing well, it is understandable the owner is very stressed, if not in absolute despair. In this situation, an owner must be strong and maintain a productive if not positive attitude. Here are four ways to accomplish that.

  1. Have the support and mentality to avoid being overwhelmed and follow through on solutions. If there is one takeaway from this article, this should be it: Do not blame outward influences, rather ask them for help. However, this is not just assistance in business processes, but emotional support, a boost of confidence, the juice that will keep you going as you go through hell.

Some entrepreneurs have a well of motivation that will never run dry, but we mere mortals need to consistently orient ourselves toward a solution. A phenomenal resource for this is an executive coach, but if someone could afford one, they likely aren’t reaching a breaking point in their business. Other resources are family members, community groups, religious leader, or even philosophy. Countless clients have benefited from the wise words of Sartre, Heidegger, or Maya Angelou. No matter what, even if Cocoa the Clown is your spirit animal, the owner of a struggling business needs a source of strength.

  1. Recognize when something is a structural problem and prepare a means to work around it. The owner of a struggling pizza place once said to me, “Everyone is so cheap around here, they don’t appreciate quality ingredients, they just want the lowest price possible.” He didn’t adjust to his market and closed six months later. He completely ignored the fact 25 percent of his target market was living in poverty and his family dinner special was three times the price of his competition.

The fact what he was selling was not a fit for his local market was a structural problem for the business, and while he had 5-star reviews and a following of loyal customers, this was a place to splurge on a special occasion, not to get a convenient dinner two to three times a week. This owner had great success in more economically advantaged areas but was too pigheaded to adjust to his local market. The smart strategy was to have two tiers to the menu, one as an everyday value menu then the special occasion dinners, but in refusing to change he opened up the space to another owner.

  1. Use your support network to make sure you can distinguish between what can be solved and what must be mitigated. Many business owners feel being a leader means having all the answers, but as we’ve mentioned in previous articles, a business cannot run solely through the efforts of one person. This doesn’t have to be an employee or anyone associated with the business, but an outside perspective can sometimes break through rigid ways of thinking. No one wants to be vulnerable, even to appear to be vulnerable, but I can say with confidence I have never seen a business owner suffer for being forthright with those around them.
  1. Find ways to take joy in the process. If you are able to recover it will be a difficult journey; there will not be a victory every day and some days will be just about survival. Find a way to laugh, even if it is just at the absurdity of looking at debt and past due invoices. Closing will not be the worst thing that can happen, but a business owner who becomes a curmudgeon pushes away companions and colleagues and will find themselves in the worst place possible. Please note, if you, a client, colleague, or a partner are feeling despair to the degree they express thoughts of self-harm, call for help no matter what. There is no other way to handle it.

Some readers may recognize this as an expansion of “give me the strength to change what I can, the patience to accept what I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference,” and the key there is it is an outward appeal. Very rarely will a struggling business recover from some herculean effort or a change of one’s luck, but by cooperation and emotionally intelligent actions. Next time you’re tempted to say, “What did they do?” ask “What can we do better?” instead.

Even if you get the same result, your blood pressure will thank you.

About The Author

Trapezoid Business Services is solely owned and operated by Daniel Steyskal. Daniel has been a POS provider and business solutions consultant since 2008 working with small to midsized businesses and national franchises. When he's not making the impossible possible for his clients, Daniel enjoys cooking, gaming, and volunteering in his community. Find out more at