How to Cope With A Business Setback That's Out of Your Control

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If business owners have learned anything in the past year, it’s that life can be unpredictable, and you should plan for every eventuality. The better prepared you are, the better you’ll cope with the setbacks that get thrown at your franchise. Don’t be blindsided. Find out how to cope with business setbacks beyond your control.


Nobody can prepare for everything. But if you’re running your own business, you need to prepare for what you can. Don’t assume that issues won’t arise just because they haven’t already. Plan for your worst months AND your best months. Build an evergreen business, able to survive a few unexpected setbacks. 

If you make a plan for the worst case scenario and then never need to put it into action, that’s just a huge win for your business. After all, if the past year and a bit has taught us anything, it’s that you never really know what’s round the corner. 

What are business setbacks?

Business setbacks can come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re hard to predict, even on a small scale. Setbacks - particularly the ones that feel totally out of your control - can be incredibly frustrating. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has caused 44% of businesses to experience a decrease in profits [Office for National Statistics] and caused sleepless nights for virtually every business owner. 

Examples of setbacks beyond your control include:

  • A national or global crisis - Anything from a natural disaster to a recession could have a negative impact on your franchise. The Great Recession in 2008 led to unemployment reaching its highest rate since 1995, and at that time, almost 2.7 million people were left looking for work [Office for National Statistics].

  • A challenge or crisis in your personal life - Issues in your personal life can often occur through no fault of your own. A family member could get sick, a divorce could take up time and energy, or your home could burn down. Whatever the situation, a personal life crisis could have a knock-on effect on the business you’re running.

  • The loss of a major client - While you can control the majority of what’s going on within your business, it’s impossible to do this for someone else’s, too. Losing a major client may not necessarily reflect on your work, or be within your control. They too could be experiencing difficulty. Nevertheless, it will impact you. It’s something Fantastic Services’ Anton Skarlatov experienced (but overcame to build back 100x stronger).

Seven top tips for overcoming business setbacks and challenges

Now that you have an understanding of the kind of unstoppable business setbacks that your franchise could face, it’s about asking yourself: How do I deal with these things? These seven top tips will show you the way forward...

1. Seek support

This support could take many forms. It might be emotional support from an experienced individual able to offer advice, or business guidance from an experienced individual of a different kind, able to offer business advice. It might even be financial support from the government or an insurer. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Acknowledge your own limitations, and pay attention to the moments in which it could benefit you to accept help from others. 

If your business has been negatively impacted by the pandemic, there’s plenty of government support currently on offer (at the time of writing):

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme  (open until September 2021)

  • The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

  • The Vat Deferral New Payment Scheme (open until the 21st June 2021)

  • Business rates holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year covering retail, hospitality and leisure companies in England

  • The Recovery Loan Scheme

  • The Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility

  • The Coronavirus Restart Grant

  • The Coronavirus Additional Restrictions Grant

  • The Local Restrictions Support Grants 

>> Read more:


2. Be adaptable to change 

Adaptability is one of the keys to continued growth, both personally and professionally. While developing alternative business models and methods might seem stressful and alien, and take you out of your comfort zone, it’s likely to benefit your franchise in the long run. There’s nothing wrong with taking thought-out business risks and pivoting your offerings. Ask yourself whether your business might benefit from:

  • A new marketing campaign 

  • External support

Don’t be afraid to try something new and don’t avoid the shifts in the market. Keep up-to-date with changes in the franchising world, and you’ll be far more likely to find continued success in the franchising world. 

3. Relieve yourself of unnecessary financial pressures 

One of the most sensible things you can do in the aftermath of a setback, particularly a financial hit, is assess your monetary situation and see where you might need to make cuts in order to move forward. This may mean reducing operational fees, and even making staff cuts. As sad as it may be to have to make these decisions, cutting your outgoings and lowering your financial pressure is likely to help in trying financial times.

4. Maintain a sense of perspective 

Though setbacks can be overwhelming and upsetting, try to view them as an opportunity to rethink your strategy. Accept the fact that sometimes failure is par for the course, and keeping perspective will help you to find the answers, rather than crumbling. 

Our brains are hardwired to make much of modern life difficult. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with uncertainty. On the bright side, if you know the right wiles, you can override your brain's irrational tendencies and handle uncertainty effectively.
—Parveen Kharb, Twenty Two Motors Co-Founder



5. Focus on learning 

One of the best things you can do when handling a business setback is view it as a chance to learn. Focusing for too long on the stress and pain that a setback might have caused will keep you stagnant. Facing the adversity head-on can turn even the hardest moments into teaching moments. 

6. Put a plan in place for the future 

This should go without saying, really: Always have a plan for the future of your franchise. Always plan ahead and ensure that everything you’re doing on the day-to-day level serves your long-term business goals. Yes, the future is unpredictable, but plans are there to be tweaked and adjusted. 

Come back from setbacks stronger than before with planning, flexibility and support

Hopefully, you’ll be able to apply the above tips the next time your business experiences a setback. Know that every job comes with highs and lows, and the ability to weather the storm of business ownership is impressive in and of itself. For more business tips, browse Point Franchise’s range of articles.

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