Making a Fresh Start (continued)
Closing a business is not the end of the story. Businesses fail. It’s not personal. It’s business. As you start to move forward, you need to distance yourself from the business you had so you can create something new. There is no magic timeline for doing this. Everyone experiences the grief process differently. Everyone heals at a different pace. Still, there are some things you can do to move forward.
Take care of yourself first
Some of the biggest names in business have suffered cataclysmic failures. You are in some pretty remarkable company. As you come to terms with your loss, find ways to separate your business and its failure from you. It is not and probably never was part of your identity. It was a business, it was not you. Step away from looking at the wreckage and find comfort in family and good friends. Go for long walks. Renew your interest in things that give you joy and anchor you. Indulge in activities that can be completed, giving you a sense of accomplishment and a source of pride. Give your mind, body and soul a bit of rest so that you can see what you experienced in a different light. And realize that your last endeavor may have actually kept you from discovering that new idea that will take the world by storm.
Consider what went wrong
As you think about your business and its demise, think about the final straw was that caused you to close. It may not have been the event itself, but other factors that were present before. Ask yourself how sales were. Was your customer base growing, level or shrinking? Did the marketplace become hyper-competitive, or did you feel like your business model was becoming a bit stale? Finally, were you happy?
In a plane crash, the actual impact isn’t what went wrong. It is the result of what went wrong. Multiple factors – human error, equipment failures, natural forces, etc. – could all have contributed individually and together to cause the crash. Like an FAA inspector, think about your business and its failure forensically. What core factors caused you to ultimately close?
This can be very cathartic for you personally and help you identify conditions that you can avoid in the future with any new business endeavor. You need to be brutally honest about the potential causes and the mistakes you made. Excuses won’t help you learn. They will only keep you in the bargaining stage of grief, playing an endless game of “what if?”.
Once you’ve identified these errors, mistakes and shortcomings, give yourself permission to let them go. They are history. They are nothing more than learning opportunities from the past. Don’t give them any more power than that. Instead, use them as guideposts to the future.
If you held onto your business until there was nothing left, you might find yourself in a pretty deep financial hole. Creditors may have you on speed dial, and you may be worrying where you’re going to get money for the basics of life, let alone a new business idea.
You may want to meet with a financial adviser to talk about your situation. There are measures you can take to reorganize your debts or have them discharged, either by working with creditors directly or through bankruptcy. It’s best to be proactive in addressing this. It is a problem that will not go away and only get worse.
To make ends meet, you may want to think about taking on freelance or consulting work or a part-time job to give you some cash flow that you can use to pay your obligations and save for a new project. As you think about your new business idea, factor in what it’s going to cost and where the money is going to come from. It’s O.K. to start small or even start your business as a side hustle as you build savings and a client base.
Before you set off again on a new adventure, seek advice and support from your network. A word of caution here. You don’t want a circle of friends or associates who will tell you what you want to hear. You need people who are supportive, yes, but you want them to be brutally honest with you.
If you’ve been active on LinkedIn, in a local chamber or a business networking group, ask a few trusted business professionals to be a sounding board. Other business owners in startup mode can be a godsend, largely because they are in the same mode you are and will be able to provide you with valuable feedback, resources and ideas.
You may also want to find a mentor. This person can give you a different perspective on your business, one that has been honed through their many years in business. Even an experienced business owner can use a mentor now and then. It’s easy to fall in love with an idea and become a bit blind to its viability or longevity. A mentor can help you identify any shortcomings, help you bring the idea to maturity, or send you in an entirely different direction.
Your network may also be able to provide you with leads, recommend new partners or suppliers, make introductions and even point you to investors. Investors and funds are hard to come by with a first-time entrepreneur, but a business person in restart mode with a track record of success can be an attractive opportunity for the right investor.
So, Now What?
With any luck, you’re ready to move on now. There is no standard timeframe for this. Everyone heals differently. Everyone has their own boxes to sort and place on the shelf. When you’re ready, you’ll know it. That fire inside of you will start to see opportunities out in the marketplace. It may have been something you read, a new space that opened up just down the street or a new trend that is consuming the airwaves. You never know where the next big idea will come from. That is part of the reason why you go into business in the first place.
Until now, this work has been free. An idea or two may have crossed your mind already. You may have even done a bit of market research over drinks with peers or friends.
But at this stage, it’s only an idea. There is a lot of meat that still needs to be put on the bones of your business. It will cost money. It will take time. And it will require energy.
This is an excellent time to tap on the brakes briefly. Before you head off down the startup highway full speed, you want to give yourself one last look in the mirror. Are you ready for this? Are you over the past? Have you cleaned out the clutter that was your last business? Have you made peace with the outcome? And most importantly, are you ready to jump in with both feet again?
Thankfully, we have some additional lessons to go through before you have to answer that last, all-important question.
But first, we need to find your inner entrepreneur and do a little care and feeding to make those ideas spring to life and that entrepreneurial spirit to soar.