Does this sound familiar? You planned a detailed holiday sales strategy months in advance. You ordered all your shipping supplies. You even made multiple quantities of items. Your online shop was sparkly and festive. And then … the unthinkable. Your computer crashed. Your printer broke. You ran out of toner. A family emergency derailed everything but the essentials … your family. You have a whole slew of missing orders, despite personally delivering the packages to your post office. Or, as in my case, you were foiled by a stomach virus the entire weekend.
The funny thing about life is that something otten goes wrong. People get sick. Technology fails. Accidents happen. Packages go missing. The real question is … what are you going to do when the unexpected happens?
You can blow up. You can sink into despair. You can move on. You’ll probably experience some level of each of these!
In an ideal world, the unexpected won’t happen, because you’ll have already anticipated everything that can go wrong. In reality, of course, we don’t always anticipate everything.
In my day life as a manager, I look for employees who work their way through obstacles and adversity, continually problem-solving and remaining productive. One way to gauge self motivation is to find out how someone deals with unexpected roadblocks. After all, life continually throws us the unexpected!
You can learn to better anticipate the unexpected. Brainstorm – by yourself or with friends and family – all possible scenarios, along with contingency plans for each. For instance, as you’re preparing to vend at a craft fair and need electricity to process credit cards using your laptop, what can you bring with you in case electricity isn’t available? Ask a trusted friend known for attention to detail to give you feedback on your holiday selling strategy, craft fair set up, etc.
You can also learn to embrace adversity. I have to admit that embracing adversity was not at the top of my list for most of this weekend! I wasn’t happy about being so sick, but I knew that getting worked up wasn’t productive. I chose to look for the positive, which I realized would be having more inventory for the Renegade Holiday Fair in San Francisco in just three weeks. Whew! One disaster solved a looming problem. When I feel myself melt down over a disaster, I remind myself to look for the opportunities. We often focus so strongly on the doors or windows closing around us that we miss those that are beckoning to us, opening new opportunities that we may have never dreamed of.
Also, reminding yourself to go into “problem solving mode” can keep your focus off of the negative. Focus on solutions. Your packages are lost: how quickly can you send replacements? Your printer blew up at midnight: do you have a 24 hour supermarket or drugstore that has inkjet printers? If not, bring labels to work with you the following day, print up your postage, and make a noon trip to the post office! If you’ve experienced a major family emergency, making order fulfillment impossible for a few days, notify your pending customers, make sure that potential customers are aware of shipping delays, and ship priority or even express as soon as you’re able (not at the cost of your customers!). How you handle the shipping delays will determine how your customers will react; if you handle things with seeming aplomb, you may convert one time customers into repeat loyal buyers!
My weekend definitely wasn’t the one I’ve been planning for; however, instead of spiraling into doom and despair, I embraced my situation, stayed as productive as I was able, and moved on. You can learn to deal with the unexpected too – if you’re not already skilled at doing so!
What about you? Are you a natural at anticipating problems? Do you melt down when things go wrong? What have you learned – perhaps the hard way – about dealing with the unexpected?