When Things Go South: 3 Steps to Get Back on Your Feet When Business Knocks You Down

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve felt it.

That feeling of being completely side-swiped, knocked right from under your feet by some sort of business-related challenge you never saw coming.

Business doesn’t always feel complicated, especially if you’ve been at it for a while, but the potential for complications and setbacks is always there. In fact, this combination of familiarity with our process over time, along with the sneaky and often-unseen nature of these potential setbacks is frequently a death sentence for businesses.

If you’ve experienced such a setback, or would just like to know some ways I’ve found to better prepare for the possibility of getting hit with such a challenge, read on.


The successful business executive can handle challenges and solve problems at a remarkable clip.

– Zig Ziglar

Any large-scale effort is liable to knock us down from time to time. That’s just how life works.

It’s impossible to predict the future and so, sometimes, we’re hit unexpectedly. And when that happens, we have one of two choices:

  1. Stay lying on the ground defeated, living out the rest of your life knowing you gave up on your goals.
  2. Or get yourself back up on your feet, figure out what went wrong, and make the necessary adjustments.

Ultimately, if you’re serious about your business, you need to get yourself back up and get after it again. But it’s possible to make a quick recovery and use that setback to your advantage if you know how. Here are three steps to doing that:

1. Assess the cause

When something goes wrong we have a habit of assuming we know why we faltered. I don’t know what it is, if it’s our fear of the unknown or the ego wanting to assure us, “I’ve got this handled! I don’t need any help!”, but whatever it is, we often assume we know what went wrong instead of actually using data and real experiments to find out and make a smarter decision moving forward.


So, first, you need to assess the cause of the setback and be smart about how you do that. Again, use hard data if possible. If not, look around you for resources or previous examples of other businesses to get a better idea of what it might have been.

Another important point: it’s rarely any one thing. Often, it’s multiple factors that played into each other to cause the problem. So, keep an eye out for that.

2. Decide: Fix the problem or pivot?

Next, once you’ve done your best to assess and identify the cause – whether it was internally (of your own doing) or externally due to economic shifts and whatnot and whether it was one or more factors – it’s time to decide:

Should I fix the problem and keep moving in the same direction or is this a sign I should pivot the business in a different direction?

Mentally tough entrepreneurs aren't afraid to reach out for help or guidance

Some of the biggest shutdowns and downsizes of the past ten years are because businesses started to see a decline in sales and didn’t immediately pivot to meet the ever more digital economy (Blockbuster, retail stores, etc…).

Only you can decide what is right for your business, but if you did a good job of collecting data and like-examples of other companies who went through similar things in step one, you should have more than enough information to make a sound decision (at least, the best decision that any human could reasonably make).

3. Establish a better system for mitigating risk

Regardless of whether or not you stay the course or pivot, this setback should be a sign to you that you need to establish a better system for mitigating risk in your business.

Should you put aside a cushion to handle any sudden expenses? Should you use some of your ad revenue to start targeting this new market because you believe things might be moving in that direction? There’s a lot you can do here but it will mostly depend on what the setback you faced was in the first place.


Something every business should do is work to validate every big decision or move that they perform. By seeking validation whenever possible, whether by running a survey, speaking with real customers, or releasing an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), you’ll cover your tracks big time and reduce the possibility of another setback.

Sometimes, business knocks us down no matter what we do. When this happens, all we can do is get ourselves back up and strive to move forward into the future in a smarter and more productive way. If business has knocked you down, follow these three steps to get yourself back up and use that setback as an opportunity to grow into something bigger and better than ever before.