4 Tips for Managing the Unthinkable
Guest Author: Tricia Parker, Tricia Parker Communications
Losing your No. 1 client might be the scariest thing to happen to you—or it could be your best opportunity.
It all depends on how you look at it.
In 2016 I could only see fear—flux had struck my small editorial business when I least expected. In one summer, I lost both of my major publishing clients, the first to bankruptcy and the second to an acquisition. It was unthinkable. Unmanageable. Authors were being sent to the hospital . . . and me?
I just wanted a return to normal—anything resembling normal.
But normal couldn’t be found in the fall of 2016, and what I learned from that time helped me become a stronger, more self-aware businessperson. Below, I share four strategies for taking the fear out of “flux.”
Tip #1: “Flip the flux”—see the positive in the situation
After publisher two went under, I had to admit that some of the work had been holding me back. So, I adopted a new way of thinking: This situation, even though I don’t understand it, is moving me toward a better situation. It was energizing, not discouraging, to think about this truth—especially when new opportunities appeared.
Remember that everyone associated with the client is also seeking new work. Stay in touch, scan the horizon, and keep your résumé and website updated. And don’t be afraid to “take a chance” and reach out to others with your “tale of woe,” saying you’re ready to seek a new opportunity.
Tip #2: Assess your attachments, gain control
In his book Pointing Out the Great Way, Dan Brown says our greatest suffering comes from attachments. From a small business perspective, it can be helpful to do a “thought experiment” about potentially losing each client. The stronger the sense of loss, the more you should work to counter that feeling with another source of income.
Tip #3: Practice your “back against the wall” strategy—as if it were real
It’s all too easy to get comfortable with clients, particularly those that seem “immovable.” A great small business strength is seeking out opportunities especially when the “going is good.” I think four to five steady clients (or more!) is a wonderful number to consistently aim for. If you’re not there yet, not to worry! Begin with one or two.
Tip #4: Seek out support
SCORE business mentors are well versed in flux, and a mentor can help provide clarity in moments of confusion. Spending extra time with friends outside the industry can also lend perspective. If you feel up to it, keep in touch with colleagues from the former client—you never know when an opportunity might pop up.
A year after my business-shaking summer, I am still flexing my “flux” muscles. Learning to see the positive in so much change will always be a challenge. But I can think of no better workout for today’s small business owner.
Tricia Parker Communications is a Chicago communications company whose mission is telling your unique story in a compelling and powerful way. “We help authors, business owners and companies make their written communications the best they can possibly be.”