You lost your best employee and now you’ve got to find a replacement — yesterday.

Your live event that you spend $50k on only sold 10 seats…and now you’re in debt up to your eyeballs.

The business partner you count on for financing has pulled out – in the middle of your big announcement for a new offering.

You just found out that the 10,000 people who opt’d in for your special teleclass never received the announcement to attend the call live.

American Express pulled all your credit lines (even though you have immaculate credit) 2 days after you committed to a $50,000 coaching program.

Maybe you’ve experience one or more of these situations? Well, congratulations! It means you are in a perfect position to tap your goldmine.

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. When you are an entrepreneur you might as well increase the opportunity for messy breakdowns by 100. It’s part of the game of owning a small business – you have to take risks to grow and with risk comes the opportunity for failure.

So what do you do when you’ve worked so hard towards a big leap goal only to find it falling apart? Well, let’s start with three things to NOT do.

  • Blame. Mistakes happen in life and everyone makes them, including you. If someone else is involved it may be very tempting to blame them for the problem. Resist that temptation and start to look for the clues of how to fix that breakdown in the future (aka implement a system, policy or more competent team member.)
  • Focus on the Problem. When you focus on the problem you get….more of the problem! Acknowledge, diagnose and move on to something else. By focusing on the problem you increase your anger, frustration and negative feelings which will not allow you to be in a good solution-generation mode.
  • Beat Yourself Up. How many times do you have to tell yourself you screwed up? Once! If even that, right? So why is it that you ruminate over and over again in your head how you could have done something better? Give yourself an hour (or maybe a day if it’s a doozy) and then commit to move past it.

A few years back I had a client who was mortified about a major breakdown in his business. He’d trusted a team member to orchestrate a marketing campaign that was very time sensitive. The team member, having a personal challenge in her own life, didn’t get the direct mail pieces ready in time and by the time they were ready to mail the promotion deadline had expired on the postcard!

Now of course he was furious but instead of turning to blame and firing the team member, we decided to turn it into a gold mine of opportunity by using these three techniques below:

Think Bigger Than The Moment.
What my client didn’t know then was that his sales manager was days away from taking an extended leave of absence. A family member fell ill and he had to leave immediately. If the mailers had gone out, there could have been a big collapse on their ability to deliver.

By widening our picture, often times the breakdown is a blessing in disguise. Perhaps if that big sale had gone through, you’d be miserable working with that client for two years. You may have missed the opportunity to be live on Oprah when the call came through. Things happen for a reason. Sometimes you won’t know what it was until later so be aware of what big break is in store for you.

Look for the Lesson.
Breakdowns are a sign that you are missing a key component in your infrastructure or procedures. Use the breakdown to strengthen your processes immediately. Bring your team together to look for a solution and implement it quickly.

For instance, if your assistant missed a step in the follow up sequence that cost you a client sale, then look at where the training or the procedure is missing that step.

Know When To Fold ‘Em.
As the Kenny Rogers song goes, “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em…” What if the failure is a sign that it’s time to go a new direction? If something takes a ton of energy, time and money and it’s just not going well, it may be time to let it go and create space for something that is more in alignment with your real power.

Seth Godin wrote a book called, “The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick).” The concept is that many people hold on to something WAYYYY too long because they just don’t know when to let go.

It may be helpful to remember the saying, “Everything you say yes to means you are saying no to something else.” If you are holding on to the wrong things, you’ll be stiffing your bigger yes.


  1. #
    Ryan Angelo
    December 1st, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Awesome post Mel,

    So many good points. Blame, focusing on the problem, and beating yourself up seem to be the automatic responses during the challenges you described.

    A powerful leader isn’t controlled by her or his mind; a powerful leader controls and directs the mind.

    Finding the lessons, raising above it all, and having the wisdom and discernment to know when to “fold ‘em” are only possible if you consciously choose to look at the gold mine.

    Thanks Mel,

  2. #
    Melanie Benson Strick
    December 5th, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I like your comment:

    “A powerful leader isn’t controlled by her or his mind; a powerful leader controls and directs the mind.” Excellent input Ryan, thanks!