Small Business Hour: Handling Difficult Situations

June_SBHMany times in business, we learn to ninja-block and handle many, many different kinds of situations. But there are a few kinds of situations that are particularly sticky and hard to manoeuvre... And so often, we talk about the glossy parts of our business, right? Like being too busy, getting your brand out there... But the truth is, the business journey is fraught with so many more things that we need to be (slightly) prepared for. At the end of the day, it boils down to your core. For me, I know that I always want to be joyful, I want my clients to be joyful, and I want to handle situations with as much grace and love as possible. What about you? What is your core that you will not want to lose even when facing the most difficult of situations in your business?

Difficult Situation #1: Difficult Customers

You may already know this, but I need to remind you: Not everyone is going to like you. Not everyone will be your ideal customers.

The fact is that sometimes we let our not-so-ideal prospects seep through the cracks and become our customers. And it's doing them a disservice as much as it is to ourselves. Because in every business, there needs to be chemistry between the sellers and the buyers, right? We choose to buy certain books over others even though they all talk about business, or romance. Sometimes, because of an inadequate screening process or a want for more business, we take on people who are not exactly the best fit. And it ends up with loads of problems -- customers wanting things that you do not want to give; staying up late replying emails and trying to formulate polite replies...

We've all been there, right? We've dealt with customers that aren't our favorite, and then we regret ever taking their money and being bound to working with them. We just yearn for the project to finalize and close up already.

If you're in this situation right now, you can choose to do a few things. The first, seeing the project as an opportunity instead of a chore. Believe it or not, the way we approach our projects and customers will determine how we feel. If you can muster up enough enthusiasm for the difficult customer, and choose to see it as an opportunity to grow, or learn some new skills, instead of dreading working on it all the time, you will find much more joy in your work and much more politeness in your heart when you deal with him/her.

The second is to cut the chords before it's too late. The thing is this: When we are holding on to a client who's obviously not for us or our business, we're withholding them from someone else who can do a better job, and whom they will enjoy working with even more. That's just the truth. If you have adequate contracts in place and you have done all you can, but it's just not working out, why not arrange a meeting with the client to talk it out, recommend someone else who can do a better job, and earn a bit less money but a lot more joy?

Lastly, I want to encourage you to relook at your screening process. By this, I mean, how do your clients become from prospects to customers? At which point do you determine that you are a great fit and you could work together, or do you just take on anyone who comes knocking? You can save yourself a lot of grief and stress if you have an adequate screening process in place, for you and the prospective customer. By asking questions, talking over the phone, or any other methods that will allow you to know the client better and determine if you will work well with them, you can learn to spot the "danger" before it happens.

Difficult Situation #2: Copycats

This issue is getting more and more prevalent as the interwebs grow bigger day by day. More and more people are turning to entrepreneurship to live the lives they want, but sadly, more and more people are losing their own voices in the midst of all the bustle. It's getting both harder and easier to find out if someone else basically lifted your copy, or modelled their business after yours.

And it's hard, right? To see our hours and hours of work go down the drain because there's no way to prove that you did it first, or to see someone else brazenly claiming your work as their own. It hurts super bad, and you feel rage. Bitterness. You feel that it is unfair. And it is. It so is.

If you're in this situation right now, there are a couple of things you can consider doing. The first is to get legal help. Find someone who can professionally help you to deal with this situation, and fast. Your intellectual property is worth protecting because it is your business. We grow our businesses as we would build a brick-and-mortar building. So act like it. Find someone to help, and take the recommended action.

The second is to contact the copycat directly, and request to speak. Put forward your case succinctly and gracefully, and talk it out. Let him/her know your side, how you feel about it all, and your views about copying. Sometimes, people don't realize what they're doing until they are told. Explain to them how copying is actually stealing, not only from you, but from themselves. They are stealing their own voices, when they can do so much better if they just discovered their own voice and build their business on that. Maybe even recommend a few articles or resources for them to find their own voice and build their own brands.

Lastly, I want to encourage you to speak to someone about protecting your intellectual property even if the matter is settled. Respect your own intellectual property as you would want someone else to respect it.

Difficult Situation #3: Business Acquaintances / Friends turned ugly

This happens all the time, right? Sometimes we meet someone and we think we hit it off, but after a longer time of talking you realize that you're both not on the same page at all. You have different values, different beliefs, different principles, different ways of handling things. And sometimes you don't realize it until something bigger has happened and the disagreement rears its ugly head.

What do you do now, then? S/he might be as involved in your industry, your circle online, as you are. You might not be able to cut ties completely, but it has gotten out of hand.

There are, again, a few things you can do for yourself, as well as for others. The first is to look within and see where the problem arose. At which part could you have handled better, or differently? Always remember that arguments are likely to be both parties' faults, and you can always agree to disagree as peacefully as possible. The second is to talk it out with them. Write from your heart, and tell them what you plan to do -- is it to walk separate ways? Be nothing more than acquaintances who don't have to share even polite notes on Facebook? Or is it to agree to disagree and focus on other aspects of the friendship? -- so that they will know where they stand, and what you stand for.

Lastly, I want to tell you that the people around you influence who you are, and what you do. Remember that you can choose who you want to hang out with, even online, and learn from, grow with... Don't hesitate to take a stand for yourself if you know what you are doing -- but always, always with grace. It doesn't have to be confrontational. It just has to be firm and decisive.


I know that there are many, many more situations that are difficult and ugly, but I just wanted to talk about the 3 main ones that most often crop up. What are the other situations you've faced? How did you walk out of them? I would love to know! Being an entrepreneur is about constantly learning and growing and walking out from your mistakes. Let me know how you deal with your own difficult situations or if you've encountered any I've listed and how you responded.