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What to You Do When Things Go Wrong?

I’ve always believed that most jobs can be learned and executed well when

everything is working the way it's intended. But what about when things go wrong? Something breaks, human error jeopardizes a service, mother nature causes havoc? When stress, panic, fear and the unknown all meet in the center. I think it’s at that time, when the rubber hit the road, and when the true measure of character is seen.

Recently, our company encountered a huge glitch that simply was not in our control. Due to an emergency electrical problem next door to us (think smoldering bare electrical wires in an under-the-street service tunnel), the power to our building was shut off. What was supposed to be a two-hour delay to fix the problem turned into 16 hours without power. Without the two basic necessities of electricity and Internet, we were at a standstill, unable to do our job. Fortunately, we had a back-up plan that had us temporarily relocate minimal equipment and staff, and thus, we were able to produce and deliver our Tribute Videos to our customers without delay. In fact, the majority never even knew we had to scramble behind the scenes.

Bad things are going to happen. They just are. For those who have been in business long enough, you know exactly what I am saying. Expect the unexpected. Often, the difference between having a mediocre business and an extraordinary one comes down to how one acts during these unexpected and challenging moments.

Remember, it’s not about the problem every time, but more about how you respond to the problem. That’s where experience, patience and the right attitude shines. Your ability to respond effectively will dictate your future success in business.

Here are a few tips for how to improve that response. In fact, each of the tips mentioned below were used in evaluating and addressing our own problem when we lost power.

Stay calm – Typically, when a crisis occurs, emotions come into play. Whether flowers didn’t arrive or are damaged, an accident occurs during the funeral procession or a family member arrives drunk and belligerent, etc. It’s important to be level-headed and be the calm for everyone around you. Inside, you may be screaming, yelling and crying like everyone else, but your exterior conveys peace and calm, which will help you address and resolve the issue much more quickly.

Stay positive – We all express some sort of emotion when something goes wrong. But in order to address the issue, it’s important to carry a positive attitude that will help you resolve the problem that much more quickly, potentially allowing logic and problem solving to rise about raw emotion that can hinder and cloud judgment.

Assess the situation – When a problem occurs, it can escalate and exacerbate the entire situation, causing the chaos to multiply. Taking a big picture perspective and assessing the situation allows you to take into account all variables and options that minimize damage.

Rely on your team (of experts) – You all work as a team, relying on each other in the day-to-day operation of your company. When a problem occurs, it should be no different. Stress and anxiety can hinder one’s ability for clear judgment but with the relationship and trust you have with your team, your ability to evaluate and resolve the issue will be done with more confidence.

Do something – It is said that, when a problem occurs, the very worst thing one can do is, nothing. To avoid making a decision simply prolongs the problem, if not expands its impact on everything else. That’s not to say, make a spontaneous decision – but to use the steps mentioned above to come to a clear and concise decision whether temporarily or long-term.

You can take steps to be prepared for the unexpected. As a team, you can create contingency plans, practice emergency drills, write a staff guide book for potential problems and monthly meetings above ‘problem scenarios.’ Today, the popular mantra, “it is what it is”, can be paraphrased as ‘things happen, and you can’t do anything about it, so let it go’. But you know what, it doesn’t have to be that way. The future of your business is depending on it.

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