When Agency Business Operators Get Blindsided

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This was originally posted on LinkedIn on November 30, 2023.

If you run an agency, you’re going to get blindsided.

Here’s a sampling of some painful blindsides we’ve had at Barrel:

  • A long-time client that previously assured us that a large redesign project was ours suddenly informing us that they’ve decided to go in a different direction, feeling that a change was needed.
  • A new employee after their first day on the job stops coming into work. Unreachable until a week later, when we get a note that they don’t think it’s a good fit.
  • A contractor working on a critical piece of the project stops responding to emails and messages.
  • A client that owes a significant amount of overdue invoices goes dark. Even a collections agency can’t recover anything.
  • After being a finalist for a major project, learning that one of our references didn’t provide as positive of a reference and that played a major role in the decision to go with another firm.
  • Every member of a particular project team quitting within a 4-week span after working through some challenging issues on a client’s website.
  • A new stakeholder coming in on the client side, assuring us they were eager to collaborate, and then a few weeks later, giving us notice that they’ve brought in a different agency.

Many of these may sound familiar to you if you’ve been running a business. When these things happen, it can feel awful and stressful.

But I believe there’s also a choice we can make any time we get blindsided: let the stress consume us and weigh us down OR accept that stressful moments are part of the job and find a way to move forward.

The latter option is hard but one that’s helped me stay positive and avoid burnout over the years. In every blindside is an opportunity to reassess and learn: How could we have prevented it? What could we have done differently? If it was unavoidable, how do we make it sting less?

I’ve found that the more instances of blindsides I’ve experienced (and worked through), the stronger and more even-keeled I am the next time. I’m not immune to feelings of stress, but I’ve found that I can regulate it better and move more quickly towards accessing my toolkit of responses vs. feeling sorry for myself.

It’s a real perk of having had the experience, one that’s hard to develop artificially.

So here’s to everyone running a business — may you roll with the punches and keep carrying on.

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