No matter how bleak things get, there’s always tomorrow’s opportunity Featured

4:00am EDT October 1, 2012
No matter how bleak things get, there’s always tomorrow’s opportunity

If you’ve been running a business for some time, then I’m sure you know some CEOs who are struggling to keep their business going or have already closed their doors.

In some cases, the cause might be the economy. Maybe they were in an industry hit particularly hard and were crippled by the drop off in sales or maybe a large customer folded or took its business elsewhere.

The most troubling aspect in many of these situations is that the person in charge didn’t necessarily do anything wrong. The leader made all the right calls and did everything by the book but still ended up with a struggling business.

After you’ve been running a business for a while, you realize that even doing everything right doesn’t guarantee success. The harshest lesson to learn is that you can’t control everything and bad things happen to good people and good companies.

The real test for many begins not with how they deal with success but how they deal with setbacks. Most have never tasted defeat before, and it can be a difficult experience. One day they are the CEO of a successful and respected company, and the next day they are sitting at home wondering what they could have done differently. The experience can be depressing for some and overwhelming for others.

But there’s a saying that as one door closes, another opens, and that certainly holds true with business. If you find yourself in the situation of leading a struggling business, you need to approach it as a challenge. Don’t waste time lamenting what could have been; focus your energy on what could be. Maybe you need to tweak your business, or maybe you need to completely reinvent your company, but the key is to do something.

Take McDonald’s for instance. In the early 2000s, the company was distracted by multiple acquisitions, a massive expansion plan and a menu cluttered with items consumers didn’t necessarily want. The stock price dropped to $12. The company reinvented itself by returning to its roots, divesting of the distracting side businesses and revamping its menu and restaurants to appeal to consumers. The results changed the perception of McDonald’s from a restaurant in decline to the undisputed king of the industry with a stock price in the $80 range.

Another example is IBM. The company was saddled with low growth after trying to dominate the consumer and business hardware and software segments, and its stock dropped to $10. The leadership refocused the company on business software, a few key business hardware components and IT services. It now dominates the business IT services category and its stock commands almost $200 per share.

While you may not be as large as IBM or McDonald’s, the point is that business is constantly evolving. Sometimes it means getting back to your roots, and other times it means abandoning one line of business in favor of another.

Take a hard look at your company and think about what you could do differently. Are there some product lines that are better than others? What if you focused on your core products and did them better than anyone else? Can you follow the lead of McDonald’s or IBM to chart a new course?

If it’s too late for that, look at your current situation and find a new path to success. You led a successful business once, so you can surely do it again. Reach out to friends and colleagues to find out where the opportunities may be in the market and think about a way they could invest in your new venture. You never know who may be able to lend a helping hand. One door may have closed in your career, but with some entrepreneurial thinking, the help of some friends and prayer, another will open. The best is yet to come.

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc. Reach him with your comments at (800) 988-4726 or