8 things you can do when experiencing tough times in your business

Victoria Cairl
5 min readFeb 25, 2024
Running your own business can be a steep climb but you have to keep going.

In December, I was projecting a challenging but fruitful first quarter. We had two big new projects coming in and though I was tightening my belt, I felt optimistic for the new year.

By February, two projects were delayed until the fall and those clients—and that income—was lost for the time being. While we always have a plan for the loss of a project here or there, this time it hurt. I was affected personally and professionally.

But then I picked myself up and did the following things I think every business owner should do when faced with a similar crisis.

1) Balance Your Budget — Running a business means being fiscally responsible day in and day out. Look at where you stand financially and understand what gap you need to make up for the loss and to get back to where you were. Figure out where you can save money and take the actions to do so immediately. Whenever things look lean, I cut my pay first. This business was my dream and it’s up to me to sacrifice to keep things going. And yes, down the road you may need to make some tough calls, but what small things can you do to make a big impact? And understand your runway.

2) Deliver for Your Current Clients-Gratefully, even after we lost work, we still had several current clients whom we have the privilege to work with. I sat down with my leadership team, and we focused on the work we are already doing and discussed how to continue to do right by everyone we are working with now. How can we shift the team to offer even more support? What else can we do to meet our current goals for ticket sales? The main goal is not to spin but to focus. We have even revisited old ideas and found new ways to bring a concept or two back to life.

3) Connect with Other Business Owners- While we live in a world where we tend to broadcast our success, we rarely show our vulnerabilities. But guess what? Everyone has gone through a rough patch in their business, and we can learn a lot from one another. In the case of Broadway and Live Entertainment, everyone is going through a weird time right now as more shows are opening than ever before. We are hoping audiences come back to buy tickets and see them all. And rest assured, shows will open and close but the people you meet may be working with you for years to come. Rather than make it a competition, I try to understand how it can be a collaboration. What introductions can I make? How can I help people I love working with to win more work together? Everything in partnership is a give/get. Be willing to give to get what you want.

4) Reach Out to Past Clients You Loved Working With- “I find myself with additional capacity this Spring and wanted to see what projects you might have in the works” is a sentence in an email I hoped I’d never write but I did. One email became a meeting to catch up and a list of potential work for the next six months. In other cases, it has led to simply reconnecting and chatting about the industry at large, giving my thoughts and hearing theirs. No, none of this has led to an immediate hire but it has been great for keeping myself and my company “top of mind” and sometimes that’s enough.

5) Remember Who You Are- The insecurity can hit you quick when the going gets tough. Take a Sunday, sit in bed, feel bad for yourself, watch mindless TV, read a book, and escape in healthy ways. Then get the hell up on Monday and keep going. It’s ok to question everything if only for a moment. But if you do not believe in yourself, no one else will. Reflect on past successes. Look at your resume. Look at your company website. Do both like you are seeing your resume and website for the first time. There is a reason you have been successful. Don’t forget it. When I felt down, a few friends said, “You know what to do” and over and over, “You got this”. And while those quotes seemed frivolous, they were right.

6) Rethink and Reframe Your Model- When you have the chance to catch your breath, look back at the past year in your business: what went well, where did you come up short? Where are your team’s strengths? I sat in a coffee shop on a Sunday and did a deep dive on my company, Table 7. While I am not racing to change my entire business model, we are building out a new piece of our business in the background: Group Sales for Attractions. We have been selling groups and it’s been going well, so we are using this moment to understand how to build out our buyer lists and to research the regions we have not worked in yet. This has indeed resulted in additional sales and a few new clients.

7) Help Someone Else- The industry I work in now is facing a very challenging time, there have been layoffs and cost-cutting. And even beyond Broadway and live entertainment, we had some partners let go of some of their team teams as well. Sometimes the best way to feel better is to help someone else find work. I try and make time at least once a week to take a call or a meeting with someone looking for a job or a new opportunity. Even if I can’t hire someone, it does not mean I cannot connect them to a contact or a resource that might be of help. Or sometimes, simply listening to someone to understand where they are at and offer some advice on how to get through it can help. I believe in Career Karma.

8) Always Keep Hustling- While all of the above is happening in the background, I have been on the hunt for new business and have been taking meetings or doing pitches daily. And I won two new pieces of business last week. While these are smaller projects than the ones I lost, I am thrilled to have the chance to take them on and work alongside some new clients. And this week, there’s even more opportunity to embrace. So, I am spending Sunday prepping (and grateful) to have the love and the leads.

As Taylor Swift has asked in the song, “Are we out of the woods yet?” No. But things are getting better. Life would be boring without any challenges. Building a business is not a cakewalk. But this moment of worry has made me stronger and more focused than ever before.

Here’s hoping the above helps someone else going through the same thing and that we can all show more vulnerability in the reality of what it means to run your own business.

Victoria “Vic” Cairl is the CEO and Founder of Table 7 Strategy.