Everyone knows the saying, “When life gives you lemons, then make lemonade,” but have you heard anyone explain exactly how to make the delicious lemonade from such a sour lemon?
The key word in that phrase is make, which requires action. In the face of adversity, people often believe that simply having a positive attitude is enough to overcome a problem and get back on track. No matter how hard you think positively about your immediate setback, or how many times you tell yourself, “I’m not going to let this get me down,” you simply can’t make lemonade with just your thoughts.
At a certain point, you need to roll up your sleeves and take action.
Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of setbacks in both my business and my personal life. I have started and shut down more businesses than I care to admit, and one of my most notorious advertising mistakes cost me over $10,000 in less than 24 hours. That one hurt.
But looking back, I realize most of my biggest setbacks were really catalysts for breakthroughs, both professional and personal. Each time, I was forced to critically assess my situation and create a new and improved plan of attack.
This process can be boiled down into 5 steps. Next time you run into a business or personal hiccup, then I recommend you give this a shot:
1. Address the problem head on.
The first step is critical. You must first identify and admit you have a problem before you can work toward a solution. I always find this is the hardest step because it’s so much easier to stay in denial than address your problems head-on.
For example, one of my private clients used to rely exclusively on Google AdWords to generate new leads and sales. Though the company was doing well financially, they were extremely vulnerable: if anything happened to their AdWords account, then they could go out of business overnight. This was a problem that needed to be addressed quickly, before it was too late.
Are there any weaknesses in your business you’re currently ignoring? Admit the problem immediately so you can move forward.
2. List the symptoms and search for the root.
The second step is to identify the root cause of the problem. In many cases, the most obvious symptoms are not the root cause of the problem. For example, when my client would have a slow month, the blame was typically placed on how the Google AdWords campaign was managed. However, that wasn't the issue -- the real problem was relying on just one marketing channel for all leads and sales.
List all of your symptoms (i.e. no phone calls, no leads, no sales, etc) and then ask yourself why these symptoms are occurring. Are there no phone calls because you’re not advertising effectively? Are you utilizing all available marketing channels or are you relying on just one?
3. Research inside and outside your industry.
The third step is to find solutions to your core problem. Oftentimes, you’ll find the best ideas outside of your own industry.
In my example, we had to quickly learn how to effectively use more marketing channels. The obvious solution was to expand to more ad outlets other than Google AdWords. However, we also studied direct mail, TV, and radio ad campaigns from some of the top direct response companies across different industries. This allowed us to not only diversify, but also improve what was already working by applying proven marketing tactics.
Don’t be afraid to look at how other businesses outside of your industry are handling your core problem. This is typically where you’ll find your business breakthroughs.
4. List the key steps to take.
At this point, you've identified the root problem and researched your solutions. Now it’s time to write down your one- to three-month plan of attack to get back on track. What are the key milestones you want to hit to give you confidence you’re moving in the right direction?
My client set a goal to identify one or more profitable marketing channels every quarter. By working toward this goal over the past year, they have significantly reduced their reliance on Google AdWords. They have also discovered new ways to increase their customer lifetime value by almost 50 percent. None of this would have been possible if they didn't take that important first step to recognize the problem.
5. Take action!
Stop thinking and simply take action. If you followed the steps to this point, then there’s no need to overthink things. Again, you won’t make any lemonade with positive thinking alone. And hopefully you found solutions, either inside or outside of your industry, that will propel you to a business breakthrough!
Phil Frost is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Main Street ROI in New York, NY. Main Street ROI develops step-by-step training courses to make online marketing simple and more profitable for small businesses. Click here to get the 5 steps to rank #1 in Google in 30 days or less.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.