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Winston Churchill

9 Steps to Follow When It Hits the Fan

Sept. 22, 2017
Sometimes it seems like everything goes wrong at once. Welcome to chaos, which occurs more than once in the life of every business owner. Here’s how to manage through it.

Sometimes it seems like everything goes wrong at once.  Key people leave.  Mistakes get made.  Customers get mad.  Things break down.  Welcome to chaos, which occurs more than once in the life of every business owner.  Here’s how to manage through it. 

1. Keep Calm

When things are going wrong, the worst thing you can do as your company’s business leader is panic.  If you panic, everyone panics.  Things will slide from bad to worse.  Even if you are on the verge of panicking, present a calm face. 

2. Gain Perspective

No matter how many things are going wrong at the same time, it is not the end of the world and is likely not the end of your business.  Imagine the worst possible outcome.  If it came to pass, could you survive it?  If so, then you can handle this, no matter what.  Remember, circumstances are temporary.  This is not a permanent condition unless you allow it to be one. 

3. Get Going

Some people thrive on stress.  Others turn turtle.  If you are likely to withdraw, fight the impulse.  Nothing good can come from giving up or isolating yourself.  Take action and you will not only begin to get results, you will instantly feel better.  Action trumps worry.

4. Make Lists

When you’re fighting a bunch of fires at the same time, it’s hard to know what to do next. Make lists. Write down all of the things going wrong. Write down what needs to be done to address each issue.  Write down what you need to do today and what you can assign to others. Work on the things you can affect.  Work on responses to things beyond your control. In other words, make a plan. Then, work the plan.

5. Get Help

If you are in over your head, ask for help. Some people resist asking for help because it shows weakness and incurs obligation. Get over it. Remember people like to help others. Let them help you.  There’s a tribal instinct in our DNA that compels us to help others.

6. Communicate

Let everyone know what’s going on and what you’re doing about it. More people know something is going on than you might think. However, they probably only know part of the truth.  If you do not fill in the missing pieces for them, it’s human nature to invent something to fill the gap. People tend to invent things that are far worse than the truth. Plus, once people understand the challenges you are facing, they can help with solutions.

7. Laugh

You can laugh or cry when everything is blowing up. Choose laughter. Resort to gallows humor if necessary. Nothing eases tension and calms nerves like laughter.

8. Persist

Whatever else, do not give up.  Keep at it.  Do what you can, as you can, and keep doing it.  As the Brits like to say, carry on.  Carry on.

9. Look to the Sunrise

Whether it will take days, weeks, months, or years, recognize that there is a sunrise coming when all of this will be behind you. When you reach that day, you will look back on the chaos and realize, it wasn’t so bad.  After all, you did manage your way through it. You probably learned a thing or two as well.

A contractor’s best defense against things going wrong all at once is the support of other contractors and the resources from the Service Roundtable.  No one can match the vast content library of downloadable sales, marketing, and business management tools available at the Service Roundtable.   Membership is only $50 a month, on a month-to-month basis.  Call 877.262.3341 and ask for a tour of the password protected part of the website or simply visit and try it for a month.

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.