Transcript Episode 17: Bouncing Back After Getting Burned in Your Business
Transcript Episode 17
Welcome to the 100 Degrees of Entrepreneurship podcast, the show for purpose-driven entrepreneurs who want to get inspired to step outside of your comfort zone, expand it to your purpose, and grow your business in a big way. I’m your host, Stephanie Skryzowski, a globetrotting CFO whose mission is to empower leaders to better understand their numbers, to grow their impact and their income. Let’s dive in.
Hey, friends. I’m so excited to be here with you today. This is a solo episode, so you are going to hear from me. And we have kind of an interesting topic today. I want to talk to you about bouncing back after you have been burned in your business.
I don’t know if you know the feeling. If you’ve been in business for more than a couple of years, you probably do know the feeling. You have probably been burned by a client who didn’t pay you at all or on time, or maybe from a vendor, somebody that didn’t meet your expectations or didn’t perform as you expected, maybe an employee or a contractor that breached their contract and you didn’t get what you had agreed to. We’ve all been there before.
If you would have told me this five years ago when I started the business that I would get burned too, I would have been like, “No. No. No, I won’t. I’m good. I’m fine. I’m not going to work with people that would do that to me.” Well, five years ago Stephanie, here we are. I’ve been burned many times. And it’s very easy to really get down on yourself and be like, “Oh my gosh, what am I doing wrong to have all of this bad stuff happen?”
And I’m here to tell you, my friend, you are not doing anything wrong. There’s nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with your business. It happens, right? People fail to meet expectations and it just happens.
So I want to talk to you about a couple things when it comes to getting burned in your business and how to pick yourself back up and move forward with grace and professionalism.
So, first of all, I want talk about mindset a little bit. At first in my business when these types of things happened, I would take it very, very personally and it would hit all the way to my core. Like I must be a bad CFO. I’m a bad business owner. I should not even be doing this if I am being treated this way and if this is happening to me. This is just not my place and I should probably just go back to my 9:00 to 5:00. I’m just not cut out for this.
And I’m thinking of one of the very first times that I was burned. It was with a client that had not pay me for about five months. And I just kept working. I mentioned the invoices sort of casually here and there, but I kept working. And I kept working because I just sort of trusted them and felt like, okay, things will be fine. They’ll pay me later. Well, they never paid me, at all. And I didn’t really have a super strong contract to hold them to it, we’re going to talk about that in a second, but what I let that situation do to me was like, oh my gosh, they’re not paying me for my work. It must be because my work is horrible and I suck at this and I really shouldn’t even be a CFO.
And so what I did instead of pausing work and telling them, “Okay, here’s what our contract says, here’s the overdue invoices. I’m just going to pause work until we can get caught up on these,” instead of doing that, I just worked even harder trying to prove myself and prove my worth to them, when, at the end of the day, not paying those invoices had almost literally, not almost, it had nothing to do with me. It had absolutely nothing to do with me or with my performance or anything.
But what I did was I took that so personally. And what happened as well was that anything that reminded me of that client or that situation would just trigger me and send me into this downward spiral where I just wanted to give up on my business.
To somebody on the outside, explaining it all now, it might sound kind of crazy, like, “Oh my gosh, girl, somebody didn’t pay your invoices and so all of a sudden you want to quit your whole business and you really felt bad about yourself just because they didn’t pay your invoices?” Yes. Yes, I did.
And so if you’ve ever felt that way as well, just know that you are not alone and it’s not you. It is almost never ever you. And I’m thinking of another situation where a vendor that I had paid to execute a certain project for me and was supposed to get specific results, those results never happened. And towards the second half of our engagement of our time working together, it didn’t really feel like this person was engaged at all, like they even cared. And the project got virtually no results and basically money was just down the drain.
And again, I was kind of thinking to myself, it didn’t really hit me in the same way. It wasn’t like self-worth. It was more just like, “Oh, well what did I do? Should I have worked on this more? Wait, did I think I messed up somewhere?” No. No, I did not. This was the expectation that this person was supposed to meet, and they just didn’t do it. They did not get those results. So again, it wasn’t me in that situation.
And so I think a lot of times we sort of blame ourselves in one way or another. And I just want you to know, again, that it’s not your fault. Most likely it’s not your fault, right? I guess there are some situations where it could have been your fault, it could have been my fault. These situations that I’m talking about with you right now, these were 100% not my fault.
So the other thing that has kind of helped me get through some of these times where I’m just in a sticky situation, I feel like I’ve been just burned by somebody is I give myself a mantra. So when I think about that situation and it triggers me into that sick feeling in your stomach and that tightness in your chest, I give myself a mantra to help me get through it. And so every time I feel triggered and I get that sensation, I revisit my mantra.
And I’m trying to think back to those situations that I was talking about, and I don’t remember what my exact mantra was, but I know that I had one. And one that I love that has really helped me through some hard times is that this is not happening to me, this is happening for me. And so just stepping outside of that victim mentality, because often, when you are burned, when somebody has just burned you, you do feel like a victim. And I guess you kind of are a victim, right? It doesn’t feel good. It is happening to you, but instead of just sort of wallowing in that, “Ugh, why does this bad stuff always happened to me?” you sort of shift the thinking a little bit into, “Okay, this is happening for me. What do I now know and what do I now have the opportunity to change and make better in my life, in my business, in my mindset? This is an opportunity. Now that I know better, I can do better.”
So I love that. And I think that one, this is not happening to me, this is happening for me, I think that mantra is actually really applicable to a lot of different situations where we are feeling burned, where we did get burned by somebody.
So I love that one. And again, anytime that physical sensation of tightness in my chest and that pit in my stomach when the issue is revisited or I have to like deal with a email from my lawyer to help me sort out the situation, I think about that mantra. I bring that right to the front of my mind and it does help me sort of move through that emotion.
And I don’t know about you, but on the StrengthsFinder, I don’t know if you’ve ever done that assessment. It’s just fabulous. I’ll have to do a podcast episode on that sometime, but StrengthsFinder is awesome. My number two strength is harmony. And what that means is that I want everybody to get along. And so when there is friction and when there is conflict, I basically shut down. I do not like it. I will do anything in my power to make things harmonious and smooth and make sure everybody is getting along and happy.
So when I know that there’s an issue in my business, specifically that I am not in harmony with another person and that person is not in harmony with me, AKA I’ve been burned, that does not sit well with me. I do not feel good about that and it takes a long time for me to get past that.
So other people don’t have that same feeling. They don’t have that same reaction, but I know I do, and so these things have kind of helped me get through those situations.
Now, I just want to share a quote really quick. I just heard this quote from Jasmine Star today on her podcast, and she said, “True entrepreneurs take a hit and get back up. Do you have the guts to stand back up after you’ve been punched?” And that just hit home because I knew I was going to record this podcast episode today.
And so thinking about those situations, I had a choice, right? After that client chose not to pay me for five months of work, I had a choice. I could either say, “You know what, I’m not cut out for this. I’m going back to work where I just get a paycheck and I don’t have to think twice or ask people for money.” But I chose not to do that. I chose to take that hit and get back up. I had the guts to stand back up after I had been punched.
And it was not easy and it’s never easy. It’s not going to be easy in your journey either, but I did it. I moved on and I’m still here. And that’s not to say that it will never happen again. I am so sorry to tell you, my friend, it’s going to happen again. Maybe in a different way. You’ll learn your lesson about this particular situation and you won’t do that ever again, you’ll make sure that you’re protected, but it’s going to happen in another way. Unfortunately, that’s life. We’re all going to get burned.
You hear me talk all the time about how important it is to know your numbers as a business owner, but you may be thinking, “Well, how in the world do I do that? Where do I even begin?” So I have a free resource for you. The Profit Playbook is an amazing template that you spend about 15 minutes getting it all set up and you can literally see into the future of your business, revenue, expenses, cashflow just like a crystal ball. It is a huge resource that will absolutely help you create a roadmap to reach your goals in your business. It is for free over at 100degreesconsulting.com/profit.
The other thing that I have really taken away from situations like this are, again, this isn’t happening to me, this is happening for me, so what is that opportunity that I now have to make this not happen again, improve my business in some way so that I don’t get burned like this again? And I think about that instance with that service provider who I had hired to do a specific project that sort of fizzled out, it got absolutely zero results. I think about, “Okay, how can I not get myself into that position again?” Well, I can educate myself more on what that service provider was supposed to have done for me so that I know and can sort of check in on milestones along the way and not just let them sort of lead and then nothing happens. I could have educated myself a little bit more about that.
So you know what I’ve done? With other service providers I have hired a since then, I make sure that I understand what they’re supposed to be doing, how are they are supposed to be doing it, and what the intended results are. Now, I’m not going to go become an expert in whatever it is, but I need to know at least a little bit so I can make sure we’re moving in the right direction. And I see that all the time with people in their numbers too actually, they don’t know what they don’t know, right? We don’t know anything about bookkeeping or accounting or taxes or financial analysis or strategy, and so we just hire somebody and we think that, “Okay, well they’re a numbers person. So they should be doing whatever they should be doing. I don’t know what that is, but they do,” and you get burned.
We have had so many clients come to us and say, “Ugh, I had just had to get rid of my last bookkeeper. They were horrible. They like didn’t do anything on time. My taxes were a hot mess. I don’t know what the heck they were doing all year.” Same situation, right? They’ve been burned too. Our clients have been burned by other people in their past and it’s because they didn’t know what they didn’t know. They didn’t know what that person should be doing. So that’s an opportunity to educate yourself so that you don’t get into that situation again.
Another opportunity that I have found from these situations where I have been badly burned is all around legal contracts, getting documents, agreements, non-disclosures, non-competes, client contracts where everything is laid out on when they’re paying and how they are paying and all of that good stuff, all of the legal contracts. Having that so solid and locked in is something that I’ve taken away and I have used to really strengthen my business after being burned in a whole bunch of different scenarios.
So when I started my business, I Googled. I was like, okay, I have this proposal that I sent to the client and they agreed. Great. Now what? I think we need an agreement of some sort. Okay, frantically Google client agreement. Okay, well, this sounds legally. This sounds good. Okay, grab this section from this one, copy and paste that from that. Okay, I think I’ve got what looks like a professional contract.
Oh my gosh, my friends, this is what I did. That is what I did. And you know what? I’m a smart person. I don’t know why I did that. No, I do actually, I know I did that. I didn’t think that I would ever need a contract, right? I’m like, I’m only working with the most awesome purpose-driven entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders, this is never going to happen to me. I’m not going to even need this, who cares?
No, I was wrong. Good people still do kind of crappy things. They do kind of crappy things and that’s how we get burned, even if they’re a good person. I am not saying that any of these people that I’ve been in these situations with are bad people, but they do crappy things.
So anytime that I am asked what are my biggest lessons in business or what do I wish I had done differently if I could start my business again, it would be to put as much time and effort and money into the legal foundation of my business as I did to the other foundational pieces of my business.
As a CFO, I am talking all the time about setting up your business finances the right way from day one. You cannot do it too soon. You cannot open a business bank account soon enough. You cannot keep track of your revenue and expenses soon enough. I don’t care if you make a hundred dollars in the entire year, like keep track of that. Even if it’s an Excel spreadsheet, keep track of it, right?
And so I preach to have all of that stuff in line from day one, and the same goes for legal. And here’s the thing, I know that legal and finance are not the most exciting things to think of when you’re starting your business, right? You want to start your Instagram account and start posting fun photos, build your website and get a logo and all the fun visual pieces that really are out there and people can see, and they’re just, it’s fun, right? Legal and numbers aren’t really fun to a whole lot of people, but they are literally the most important pieces of your business. Without those, you may not have a business in one year or two years or five years.
So that’s what I would say. If I could do anything differently in my business, it would be to not Google it out when it comes to client agreements, when it comes to contractor agreements, employee agreements. No, no, no, no, no, we do not find things on the internet and use them.
So what I have done since is I have gotten a lawyer, a real live lawyer with a law degree who specializes in contracts and all of this kind of thing to draft me contracts and agreements that are fit for my business.
So it’s an investment. It costs money. Yes, it does, but it is so worth it. Just like you would spend money on a designer to create your logo or you’d spend money on QuickBooks to track your finances, spending money upfront with a lawyer to get the right contracts in place will save you so much headache in the future. And that is something that I, I have really learned and taken away from these situations.
So I want to wrap this up and just say that we have all been burned. If you have not been burned, it’s almost like a rite of passage. It’s coming. And I wish it wasn’t, but it probably is. And again, five years ago Stephanie would be like, “Yeah, right. I work with such awesome people. I’m never going to get burned,” but at the end of the day, we’re all going to be in these situations.
So if you’re already in a situation like that, I am sorry, my friend. I am sorry. It sucks. And you can just be okay with it sucking. It does. It’s not fun. But here’s what you can do. You can use this mantra that it’s not happening to you, it is happening for you. And so now what you have, the opportunity to do better or to change or to do differently in your business so that this doesn’t happen again.
And that’s not to say that the entire path from now until eternity is going to be paved seamlessly and it’s going to be perfect. There’s going to be new challenges. There are going to be new road bumps that you’re going to have to get over, but at least you know with the protections that you’re going to put in place now in the systems and the processes that you’re putting into your business now, that same issue is not going to happen again, right?
That’s the worst. We do not want to repeat our mistakes. And I will tell you, after that client did not pay me for five months, that has never happened to me again. That was four years ago. That has never happened to me again because I put the right processes and I put the right contracts and agreements in place so that has never happened again.
Now, am I going to make a different mistake sometime in the future? Of course. Of course I am. I’m sure I am. It’s going to be something different. I can’t even think about what it might be right now, but it’s going to happen. So I just have to make sure that I take care of as much as I can right now to try and prevent as much as I can in the future.
So hopefully this was helpful to you. I shared a little bit behind the scenes of some times that I’ve been burned that have just really sucked in my business and made me want to throw it all in and just give up, but true entrepreneurs get back up after they have been punched in the gut.
So that’s it for today, my friends. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been burned, but there are things you can do to pick yourself back up again and make yourself and make your business better and stronger. I’ll see you next time.
Thanks for listening to the 100 Degrees of Entrepreneurship podcast. To access our show notes and bonus content, visit 100degreesconsulting.com/podcast. Make sure to snap a screenshot on your phone of this episode and tag me on Instagram @Stephanie.Skry and I’ll be sure to share. Thanks for being here, friends, and I’ll see you next time.
Transcript Episode 17