How to Bounce Back When Business Goes Bad

A resiliency expert explains how to survive — and surmount — setbacks by changing your thinking.
According to founder and CEO of the Davis Laack Stress & Resilience Institute, Paula Davis-Laack, when business goes bad, staying calm is your best option at regaining control. (Photo: Paula Davis-Laack)

When your business runs into a serious problem, like a cash flow crisis, it can seem like the world is ending. But it isn’t.

“Stress and adversity happen,” said Paula Davis-Laack, who holds a master’s degree in applied positive psychology and is founder and CEO of the Davis Laack Stress & Resilience Institute.

“How do you actually thrive and grow and get better in the midst of stress?” Davis-Laack asked. She revealed the answers to NCR Silver.

Do an energy audit

Dealing with adversity is all about picking up the pieces and moving forward, explained Davis-Laack. She has an interesting technique for maximizing productivity when you’re stressed: thinking about energy instead of time.

Map out everything you do on a daily basis — tasks you complete, people you talk to — and figure out what gives you energy and what drains you. Then you can start delegating tasks you hate and spending less time with people you don’t like.

You might come to a conclusion like, “Wow, I’m spending an inordinate amount of time with these people who drain the life out of me every day,” explained Davis-Laack. “One person can really have a ripple effect on the rest of the organization.”

Find the good stuff

It may feel like your world is crashing down around you, but there are probably some things that are going well. To avoid falling into a sinkhole of despair, Davis-Laack advised thinking about two or three things that have gone well each day. Write them down, perhaps on your train commute home or before bed.

“As human beings, we are hardwired to remember negative information,” she says. That’s why thinking positively takes practice.

Rethink the situation

People tend to get stuck in mental patterns that prevent them from seeing situations clearly. “A lot of the time, we get into thinking traps,” said Davis-Laack.

She recommended thinking flexibly, accurately and thoroughly about the problem. See if you can reframe yours thoughts about it. You might come across a solution you hadn’t considered.

Lean on others

Whether you’re stressed out about low sales or broken equipment, it’s important to get support from friends, family and colleagues. Not only does it make you happier, it enables you to calm down and make better, more rational decisions.

“You have to be able to develop high-quality relationships with people and get good at reaching out to those people,” said Davis-Laack.

Don’t aim for perfection — or blow the problem out of proportion

If you’re a perfectionist, running into a setback might lead you to procrastinate. You might avoid doing what you need to do because nothing is ever good enough for you.

“Those tendencies can really get in the way,” said Davis-Laack. “There’s a link between perfectionism and burnout.”

In fact, what you see as a major problem might be a minor setback. And thinking of problems that way makes them a lot easier to handle.

Figure out what you can control and what you can’t

If one or more aspects of your business is tanking, you might feel out of control. Instead of obsessing over regaining control, Davis-Laack suggested dealing with things you can change — and calming down about the rest.

She said she used to get annoyed when her flights were delayed, until she realized that getting upset wasn’t productive. “I can’t control the fact that the plane has a mechanical issue, but I can control that we’re not going to leave for four hours, so I better eat something.”

When you figure out what you can control, do it. Then sleep easier — and wake to fight another day.

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