As I write this piece, I find it touching that everyone loves success stories. When you are successful, everyone wants to associate with you but nobody gives a damn about the process you went through to achieve such success.
Everyday, I keep receiving accolades with respect to my achievements; yet deep down inside of me, I know success is not what it’s painted to be. This piece is about a recent business challenge I encountered, how I solved it and the lessons I learned from the experience. I am writing this for those who are currently experiencing hard times in business and life in general. I want you to know that you are not alone. As you read, I hope you learn and profit from my experience.
Sometimes, challenges or problems come so fast that you lose your grip. Regardless of your financial or social status; you will never be free from problems. I get my own fair share of problems everyday but just recently; I was hit by a massive setback.
The period April to July 2011 was one of the toughest in my life. I was practically running on adrenaline and living on edge within these four months. Now you may want to know what transpired within these four months but I think this should be a story for another day. However, I will give you a brief insight of what I faced recently, how I overcame and the lessons I learned. So if you are still eager to profit from my experience and foolishness, then read on.
The Business Challenges I faced
In the month of April 2011, I was robbed at gun point and it took me some weeks to overcome the trauma. In the month of May, my business suffered a major setback and in June; my bank placed a hold on our business account (meaning we can’t make withdrawals from the account) due to some differences that needed to be reconciled. My business suffered a major cash flow crisis as a result of this single action the bank took, so I resorted to borrowing cash from family and friends to keep my business afloat. By July, I was deeply in debt. Within this period, I was always on the go; shuttling from state to state to resolve the problem I was encountering.
Now let’s fast forward to this day; the third day of August 2011. As I write this now, I can’t really tell how I feel. All I just want to say is this; “I survived.” As at today, I have cleared all outstanding debt I incurred within the hard times, my bank account has been restored and my business has roared back to life. But it took my business team and I, 90 days of untold stress to bring things back to order.
Well, the business problem is now a thing of the past and I have moved on but not without the lessons I picked from this single experience and it’s these lessons I want to share with you today.
How I overcame my business challenges
a. I sustained my business cash flow
Cash flow is the life blood of business and when it begins to trend in the negative, it will only be a matter of time before your business collapses. When I resorted to borrowing cash from family and friends; I was only trying to keep my cash flow position positive, I had to make sure the daily operations of my business continues unhindered and this also implied that I had to make some cut on our daily expenses.
b. I took responsibility
When the problem began, I had every right to point a finger to any member of my business team and say; “it’s your fault” but I didn’t. I did not run into a hole and hide; rather, I placed myself in front of my team. I told them that a mistake has been made and I was not interested in trading blames at that moment; all I needed was a solution and my team responded positively. They thought I was going to axe someone but I didn’t. Rather, I preached the need to jointly assume responsibility and resolve the mess together; with me as the lead dog.
c. I engaged in critical thinking
I have said it in previous articles that critical thinking is a key to effective problem solving. In the midst of the ensuring tension, I still found time to think in solitude. In fact, I spent most of my free time alone to the extent that my dad became concerned over my health and began counseling me to take things easy. But I laughed him off and quietly explained to him that I wasn’t worrying, I was thinking. At this point, I want to make it clear that there’s a big difference between thinking and worrying. Thinking solve problems but worrying compounds a problem and may even get you killed. My dad probably never understood the difference.
d. I tackled the problem head-on
What do you do in the face of problems? Do you face them squarely or you run and hide? Well, I know from experience that people react differently in the face of problems. Some even ignore the problem as if it doesn’t exist. But to pull myself and business out of the mess, I knew I had to tackle the problem head-on and I did.
Six Lessons I learned while resolving this business problem
1. Integrity can be a life saver
The bible said that “a good name is better than precious ornament” and that’s definitely true. When I went to borrow money for my business from family and friends; none requested a collateral or interest, none blinked an eyelid before granting my request. But they made it clear to me that they were lending me their money because of my reputation of keeping to my words. When I heard this; I was humbled and I strived to make sure I didn’t disappoint.
Always make sure you preserve your integrity; it can be a life saver in hard times. Never make empty promises and when you eventually make a promise; keep to your words. I have seen entrepreneurs raise millions and even billions of dollars easily; just because they have a reputation of delivering on their words. If you want to achieve much in business; preserve the integrity of your name.
2. Do what you must today; not tomorrow
Most people are fond of procrastinating; I am also guilty of such and in fact, procrastination was one of the reasons our business got in trouble. So whatever you have to do today; do it. Don’t wait till tomorrow because it might be too late. Don’t wait till you are under pressure before you act.
3. When challenges hit you; don’t break
Challenges are part of life; they come to make you stronger only if you refuse to bow. When challenges hit you; don’t break. Rather, toughen up. Just like a famous politician said; “when vultures surround you, refuse to die.”
4. Never lose focus
One of the greatest mistakes you will make in times of hardship is to take your eyes off your goal. No matter how bad the situation is, never lose focus.
5. When all human effort fails; turn to God
Yes, God works and he answers prayers. I had a good experience of this during the hard time. I remember going to the bank to meet with my banker. As I discussed with my banker, I was lost in thought. I wasn’t interested in the sermon and big words he was spitting out; all I wanted was a solution and just when I thought a solution was coming, my banker said “I am sorry Mr. Ajaero; we still can’t allow your company make withdrawals from the accounts.”
Those words hit me like thunderbolt. My business was on the brink of collapsing and here was this smart looking guy telling me I can’t access my money. As I bow my head lost in thought, I noticed someone by my side. I turned and it was a man. He must have heard my banker saying the last words, he asked what the problem was and I told him. He asked me to see him in his office the next day and he gave me the office address. I went home that day crying to God for a solution; I couldn’t sleep that night as I kept praying asking God to come to my rescue.
When I got to the man’s office the next day, he simply signed a document; handed it over to me and said goodbye. No introduction, no cross questioning. This man didn’t even bother to know the name or identity of who he was helping. I was really surprised that someone I don’t know from Adam would help me with such a sensitive problem with no strings attached. Well, some will attribute such action to luck but I will say it’s God at work. So when it seems all hope is not, never forget to cry to God for help. He will surely make a way for you.
6. Always be prepared for the worst
This is the final lesson I learned from the whole scenario; always be prepared for the worst. Challenges and problems will never stop coming no matter how successful you are. Even though I have solved this particular problem, I know bigger problems are still lying ahead of me. Instead of praying never to encounter challenges; the question I constantly ask myself is “how prepared am I to handle the next challenged? I know you can never be too prepared for what’s ahead since you can’t predict what is to come; but at least, I believe that he who is prepared has half won the battle. Now how can you prepare for what is to come? A good way to start is to keep aside a certain amount of cash specifically for emergency purposes.
As a final note, I want to say that I am happy to be writing this now. Call it my survival write up and you won’t be wrong. It’s not easy being at the helm of affairs; it’s not easy being a business leader. This single incident made me wonder the amount of pressure top business leaders and CEOs go through during challenging periods. Well, like I said earlier; all problems will surely come to pass. The real bone of contention is whether you will survive or not.