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The 7 Stages of Facing Change in Business

Sometimes change in business comes when you least expect it. Things are going along perfectly, and then BOOM. A big client leaves. A competitor moves in across the street. Something happens that changes, well, everything.

How I’m Facing Change Right Now
Two years ago, I broke the Guinness® World Records title for the longest uninterrupted live webcast. It was 36 hours, 23 seconds long, and it was an awesome event—not just fun, but also extraordinary, in that we had 33 speakers who were bestselling authors, entrepreneurs, and experts in all fields of business and marketing. I set out to create a Master’s level class in business in that 36 hours, and I’m proud of what we created.
The thing about Guinness World Records, though, is that they’re made to be broken, and you have to be prepared for the day when you’ll find out that your record was broken. For me, that day came last Friday. It’s official: some guys in Kentucky broke my record by webcasting for 41 hours. Way to go, guys! Congratulations!
When you hold the title “Guinness World Records titleholder” it means something, and right now, I don’t have that title anymore. For well over two years, I’ve held my title, even wrote about it in my book, Business In Blue Jeans: How To Have A Successful Business On Your Own Terms, In Your Own Style. But I no longer hold the title. It might seem like a small change, but in the sea of business coaches and marketing strategists, any hook helps. So not being able to pitch myself with that fancy “Guinness World Records” phrase represents a pretty substantial change for me.
(What’s really ironic about the timing of my record being broken is that when I found out, I had just returned home from filming an appearance on ABC’s show, “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire: Guinness World Records Special Edition.” My episodes air  Nov. 11-12, 2014, don’t miss it! Go to www.millionairetv.com to find out where and when Millionaire airs in your area!)
Facing Change In Business
There are seven stages of facing change in your business. It’s important to make regular progress through these stages and not allow yourself or your team to get mired in any one stage. If you find yourself getting stuck anywhere, make sure to bring in the appropriate help so that you can get moving in the right direction. Change in business can be hard—so difficult, in fact, that it can bring down your entire enterprise if you’re not careful. Handling change the right way is important.
Stage 1: Denial
When a new reality sets in, you’ll want to deny that it’s happened. You’ll try to find ways to fight the change and keep it from happening. Certainly there’s a time and place for fighting the change, especially if the change you’re facing is losing a big client that might be saved. But eventually, you’ll want to start to move into acceptance.
Stage 2: Acceptance
At some point, it’s time to accept the change in business. It’s time to say, “Okay, we’re facing a new reality and we have to come to terms with that.” It’s not easy. You won’t want to accept the change, but at some point, you will. And that’s when you can get on with the grief.
Stage 3: Grief
Once you’ve accepted that you’re facing a change in business and the change is real, you’ll want to take some time to grief what you’ve lost. For me, it’s losing a title and a record. For you, it might be losing a client or an opportunity. It might be losing an exclusive location or something else. What have you lost, and how do you feel?
If you don’t let yourself feel the grief, at some point in the following stages, it’ll come up and trip you up as you try to move forward. So take the time, let yourself feel bad (sometimes it’s okay to feel bad), and then get ready for acknowledgement.
Stage 4: Acknowledgement
Part of accepting and grieving a change is acknowledging and celebrating what you haven’t lost. Sometimes when things change in business, it can feel like failure. It’s important to acknowledge what you haven’t lost and celebrate what you still have.
For me, this meant I had to acknowledge that while I no longer hold the title of “recordholder” I am still an awesome, special, cool person who did something that very few people have done. I had to celebrate that I really haven’t lost anything. I still organized and hosted an extraordinary, recordbreaking event. I’m still an author and I haven’t lost any of my skills. I’m still me.
Other examples of acknowledging and celebrating:
  • If you’re a coach and a client decides to move on, celebrate what you accomplished with that client. If they’re ready to go solo, it means you’ve done a good job!
  • If you’re a small, local business in a location that’s been strong for a long time, but a national chain is moving in across the street, acknowledge and celebrate your history and what you’ve accomplished in your community.
  • If you’re in business and the economy changes so much that it affects your business (how many businesses weren’t impacted in the Great Recession, right?), acknowledge that you found ways to be successful before and celebrate that you haven’t lost your capabilities to do so again.

Also, this stage is about celebrating the idea that sometimes when a door closes, a window opens. Sometimes change is making room for a new opportunity. Celebrate that. You never know what’s just around the corner .

Stage 5: Adjustment
Once you’ve accepted, grieved, and then celebrated what you haven’t lost, it’s time to adjust. Things are different now, and you can’t undo what’s been done. It’s time to adjust to your new reality. If the change in business that you’re facing is losing a big client, you’ll need to begin adjusting in a variety of ways to keep the business afloat, for example. What adjustments are needed in the immediate sense, so that you can stay in business?
Note: in the micro-enterprise (e.g. the solo entrepreneur), as much as you may not want to hear it, sometimes big change means you need to seriously cut back (beans and rice!) at home and/or get a job temporarily until you can replace that client. The adjustment stage is about getting real and taking ownership of what’s going on in your business so that you don’t lose everything.
Stage 6: Looking Forward
You’re ready to look forward. What’s next? You don’t have to rush this stage, although I wouldn’t spend too long in it. This stage is about planning—then you can move on to the next stage, taking action.
As you look forward, ponder and discuss with your team what you can do next to keep your brand growing and flourishing. What should you be doing differently? If something went wrong to cause the change in business to occur, what can you do to prevent it from happening again?
This is a great time to decide if you want to change directions or if the company can recover from the changes that have occurred. Most importantly, you want to develop some concrete plans for moving forward.
Stage 7: Taking Action
Once you’ve created your plans, waste no time in taking action.
I found out about my record being broken last Friday. I kept myself moving through the stages throughout the weekend and by Monday morning, I was already scheduling meetings and working on new projects.
Don’t let grass grow under your feet! Get out there and start taking action on the plans, once you’ve decided what’s next.
What’s Next For Me?
Well, first and foremost, I’ll be appearing on ABC’s show, “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire: Guinness World Records Special Edition,” Nov. 11-12, 2014, don’t miss it! (Go to www.millionairetv.com to find out where and when Millionaire airs in your area!)
Second, I’m hard at work developing new products for small business owners for Business in Blue Jeans, so you can expect to see new classes, guides, and other training materials to help you grow your business.
Third, I’m working with a production company on developing a pilot for a television show.
I can’t reveal anything else beyond that, but I can promise you that what’s coming next will be awesome.
The next thing for you can be awesome, too. Make sure to keep moving through those stages. Change in business can be tricky, painful, stressful, and scary. But it can also mean tremendous growth and new opportunity. Hang in there!
This article was originally published by Susan Baroncini-Moe
Published: November 17, 2014

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Susan Baroncini-Moe

Susan Baroncini-Moe is the author of Business in Blue Jeans: How to Have a Successful Business on Your Own Terms, in Your Own Style, a business and marketing strategist, and a Guinness World Records® titleholder. She regularly speaks to audiences of all sizes and has shared the virtual stage with business giants like Michael E. Gerber, David Meerman Scott, Bob Burg, Larry Winget, and Chris Brogan, among others. She and her businesses have been featured in Redbook Magazine, USA Today, MSN Living, Investor’s Business Daily, Yahoo Finance, and American Express Open Forum. You can find her at http://BusinessInBlueJeans.com and follow her @suebmoe.

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