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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Enduring in a Crisis

Ernest Shackleton, an explorer in the early 20th century, knew how to endure. His most famous expedition, known as the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition or the Endurance Expedition, proved that fact. Shackleton set out from London on August 1, 1914 with 27 crew members on the ship Endurance, in an attempt to cross Antarctica, Atlantic to Pacific, by way of the South Pole. However, the pack ice began to close in on Endurance, making in motionless in February and finally sinking it on November 21, 1915.

What happened in the months that followed showed great resolve from Shackleton in leading his crew. They had managed to salvage three small boats, cameras and meager provisions before the ship went down. The crew then trudged their way across the uneven pack ice terrain. After attempts at reaching various locations, Shackleton settled on Elephant Island, which they reached in March of 1916. Shackleton was determined to get his entire crew home safely and, despite the treacherous seas that awaited him, he and six other crew members took a 23 foot boat back to England. On August 30, 1916 they returned to Elephant Island with a ship and rescued the entire crew. Not one member was lost.

Shackleton’s ship was appropriately named, not because the ship endured, but because the crew never gave up. They showed great resolve in surviving through below freezing temperatures for nearly two years, with little provisions and, frankly, little hope. Shackleton was an especially strong leader and, without his help, the crew probably never would have had the resolve to survive. He knew how to endure in a crisis.

While something you may face with your business won’t be nearly as disastrous as the fate of Endurance, you can still come out on top just like Shackleton and his crew. When you face any sort of crisis, keep these elements in mind:

Be Creative
Shackleton never ran out of ideas. When the ship first froze in the ice, he determined all the possible outcomes and was never surprised but what lie ahead of them. When a new problem presented itself, Shackleton didn’t get overwhelmed, but, instead, stayed calm and rational and pushed through. They may have had to eat seals, but, by golly, they had food. They may have only moved 10 miles in seven days, but they still moved forward.

When problems arise, take a minute to breath, and then brainstorm all the possible outcomes and how to accomplish what is best for your “ship” (business) and your “crew” (employees/family). Don’t be afraid to be creative and take risks. Enduring a crisis can’t happen if risks aren’t taken.

Forget the Rules
You may start the day with a set plan in mind and a mapped out course, but when a crisis arises, the rules are thrown out the door and that course will likely change. For example, Shackleton’s crew was greatly slowed down by the sled dogs they brought when fleeing the ship because the terrain was too rough for them. While I’m sure it was a hard decision to make, they had to shoot the dogs in order to insure their own survival. Obviously, that wasn’t part of the initial plan, but it had to be done.

There may arise a situation in which you have to measure the consequences of breaking the rules against enduring a crisis and surviving. While I’m not implying that you should do something illegal to make your business survive, I am stating that the typical unspoken rules of operating a business will likely not apply when a crisis rears its ugly head.

Determine to Survive
Shackleton and his crew never would have made it if they did not have strong survival instincts. They were clearly determined to survive, no matter what they had to endure. You too, should determine that you will survive your crisis, even if it means your individual survival over the business itself. I’m sure Shackleton hated to see his ship sink to a cold watery grave, but he came out alive, and that’s what matters in the end.

Press On
Don’t let one crisis stop you. Heck, don’t let ten stop you! Shackleton sure as heck didn’t! You would think that such a horrible experience would keep him far from the Antarctic for the rest of his life. But he set out on another Antarctic expedition in 1921. He was determined to press on, as you should be when a crisis hits. Don’t let a crisis derail you from your dreams. Try again, try something new even, but don’t let one bad blow ruin your chances for success later.

Again, while most of us will not have to endure the Antarctic for two years, life has it’s far share of challenges for each of us. The important thing is that you don’t give up, but endure whatever crisis may come your way. You’ll be stronger and more resilient in the end, I promise.

Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Elements of a Successful Business
Taking Time Off
It’s all in the Family: How to Setup a Family Business
But on the Other Hand . . . (i.e. Exploring Options)
Pulling Your Teen Out of the Financial Hole

By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, August 19th, 2018 @ 12:05 AM CDT

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