The Braving Business Blog

Serial Entrepreneur and Host of The Braving Business Podcast

Published on

26 Sep 2023

Read time

6 min

Written by

Tal Zlotnitsky

Sometimes, despite meticulous planning and hard work, unforeseen setbacks can hit us like a storm battering a ship on the open seas. Business crisis management requires you to approach the situation with a clear, composed mind and a practical, effective strategy. Let’s break down how to navigate through business setbacks in three manageable steps: Strategic Approach, Tactical Implementation, and Nurturing Positive Inner Dialogue.

Step 1: Strategic Approach

When disaster strikes, our first instinct might be to react impulsively or to feel an urgency to act. My simple advice to you is: Hold the ball, meaning take a moment to pause and reflect before taking any action. I share this advice with acknowledgement that for a long, long time, I personally found this to be the hardest thing to do.

Start by pausing, assessing, and devising a coherent plan. Then sleep on it. Review your plan anew with fresh eyes. With very few exceptions, haste in a disaster can be detrimental. Slow down to ensure you don’t compound your problem.

When deciding what to do next, start by identifying the root cause of the setback and assessing its immediate and long-term impact on your business. Our Episode 10 guest, Ken Bogard, Founder of Know Honesty, would suggest you identify “the true condition”—meaning, the actual state of things, unvarnished. In his interview with us, Ken stated: “If I’m working with a leadership team or I’m working with an entrepreneur and they skirt the truth, it’s extremely difficult to help them. I do not have the true condition.”  Ken is exactly right.  If you don’t have the true condition, your odds of making the right decisions on how to handle the crisis boil down to luck.  Improve your odds of success by taking honest stock of the situation and establish the true condition before you start considering your options.  Taking the time to do this is worth it, even if you think you know the true condition by heart.  You might be surprised what comes up when you force yourself to remove any varnish.

After establishing the true condition, lay down clear, realistic objectives to tackle the problem, ensuring your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The key is to avoid haste and confusion, focusing instead on informed, well-considered decisions that will navigate your business out of choppy waters. Use your network to run your plan by a few people whose judgment and expertise you trust.

Step 2: Tactical Implementation

Having mapped out your strategy, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty of tactical implementation. This step is all about action. Break down your strategic goals into smaller, actionable tasks, and—if you have a team—delegate tasks to them effectively, ensuring that each member understands their responsibilities. If you’re on your own, sequence your steps as clearly as possible.

Prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, recognizing that determining these is as much art as science. Keep communication lines open, ensuring that every team member or affected client understands what you are doing and why. It’s also crucial to monitor the execution closely and be ready to adjust your tactics swiftly and smartly if the situation demands. The tactical phase is a vital bridge between your strategic vision and practical reality; treat it with diligence and flexibility and be ready to pivot if necessary. Through it all, stay calm. I maintain a daily meditation practice that helps me stay composed.
Composure is great under all circumstances, and it comes in especially handy in a crisis.

Step 3: Nurturing Positive Inner Dialogue

Dealing with setbacks is as much about maintaining a resilient and positive mindset as it is about strategic planning and action. When facing a business disaster or crisis, it’s easy to fall into a trap of self-doubt and negative self-talk, something I know all too well from personal experience. Fortunately, if you practice positive self-talk on a regular basis, ideally daily, maintaining a kind and understanding inner dialogue is simpler than you think.

It might seem self-evident that approaching a setback as a learning opportunity and reflecting on what went wrong is the right thing to do, but it’s harder if you’re busy telling yourself what a fool you were to miss a signal, or if you ruminate endlessly about what you could have done differently. When you find yourself having these thoughts, don’t be angry with yourself!  A part of you that loves you is trying its darndest to help you resolve the situation as best it knows how.  Start by acknowledging to yourself that the negative self-talk is understandable, but then gently make yourself stop.  Instead, focus on constructive self-talk, reminding yourself that you didn’t have a crystal ball and made the best decisions you could with the information available, or with the time you had, or given the other stressors in your life that impacted you.  Any one of these are legitimate reasons to have gotten something wrong!  Accept that mistakes are inevitable when you’re bold enough to be an entrepreneur and take risks. After all, if you could tell the future, you’d just buy the winning lottery ticket and call it a day.

Pause and gently remind yourself that you are entitled to make mistakes.  On an everyday basis, whenever I find myself succumbing to negative self-talk, I stop my train of thought and force myself to restate the message in a more loving and respectful manner, just as I would to someone else. I think of it as playing nice in the sandbox with… yes, myself!

Lastly, surrounding yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or mentors who can provide perspective, support, and encouragement is also helpful. If you have cynics or toxic people in your environment, make a point to avoid them when dealing with your crisis (and then consider removing them altogether, if you can!)


Navigating through business setbacks and crises requires a balanced approach of clear strategic thinking, tactical action, and maintaining a positive, constructive mindset. By “holding the ball” and taking a moment to catch your breath, then assessing and planning, you are likely to avoid making a situation worse. Diligently executing your strategies and maintaining effective communication can prevent misalignments. Fostering a supportive inner dialogue will mean even the most severe setbacks can be transformed into opportunities for learning and growth, as opposed to self-flagellation.

I learned over my career that it is not about avoiding the storms, but learning to sail through them. The water may be rough for a time, but sailing through the storm will make you a more resilient and wiser captain.

About Tal Zlotnitsky

Serial Entrepreneur Tal Zlotnitsky is currently a global transformation consultant to Fortune 500 clients, and founder of Tech Startup Breez AI.  Previously, he was the co-founder & CEO of iControl Mobile, now part of ParkMobile, as well as co-founder & CEO of iControl Data, a B2B payments company, where he raised $20 million from Goldman Sachs and built an enterprise that still processes billions of dollars in annual payments for tens of thousands of retailers in all 50 states.  He has also founded, co-founded, invested in and sat on the boards of Our.LoveJetComfyUgoMagi Foods, NewsOne, sold in 2009 to NNA, and Current Companies, sold in 2008 to Hudson News. A proud dad and granddad, Tal believes that awareness, compassion (including self-compassion) and respect are the keys to joy and success.


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