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Make a List of Disruptive Events That You've Overcome

Running a machine shop has many ups and downs but extraordinary events like COVID-19 form memories that you can reference down the line. 
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I have dealt with many difficult situations in my life. Some have been personal struggles, while others have been business struggles. At different times, these events have been deserved, undeserved, self-inflicted or purely someone else’s chaotic life colliding with mine. Many business challenges come down to, “This isn’t personal; it’s just business.”

Over the years I’ve experienced customers pulling work, economic recessions, employees quitting, competition from overseas and even a bank calling in my loan. Amidst this, there have been presidential elections, cash flow issues, scrap parts, missed deliveries, poorly quoted projects, personnel issues and more.

While I’m sharing my unique experiences, I’m certain many machine shop owners can relate to these types of struggles. Many of these events are expected and accepted as something that just comes along with running a business. However, every so often, a completely unexpected situation will arise that I never would have thought I would have to deal with in my lifetime.

Eventually, whether we realize it at the time or not, we will get through the troubles we face.

These unforeseen circumstances test us and can push our limits and capacity as individuals and business owners. In times like these, we need to come up with new and creative solutions to the problems we are facing. Eventually, whether we realize it at the time or not, we will get through the troubles we face.

Upon resolution of extraordinary issues such as these, I have gotten in the habit of adding each to a list I keep in my head. Thankfully, the list I keep is short. However, there are some very difficult moments in my life on the list. I don’t dwell on the list, but I do draw on it during uncertain times as a reminder that I’ve been able to get through some tough situations.         

As this year comes to a close, I consider COVID-19 one of those challenges that evolved into something where I can emphatically say I never thought I’d have to deal with this in my lifetime. It made 2020 exhausting and stressful for so many reasons. All of us had to rethink and adjust how we interacted with family, friends, suppliers, customers and employees. It has upended entire industries, the education system and society as a whole. Although we don’t yet know how long we will feel the effects or the ramifications, I do feel more confident as we go forward. We have plans in place, forms to fill out and protocols and procedures to follow. Every day, people in the field of medicine are finding new and better ways of treating the virus. So while we are not certain when things will get better, we know they eventually will.   

To deal with tough issues, let go of your initial feelings and deal with the matter at hand.

I’d like to share my basic advice when dealing with tough issues. While everyone deals with problems in different ways, often our initial feelings are fear, anger, betrayal, shock or denial. It’s ok to feel those emotions, but the quicker you let go of them and start dealing with the matter at hand, the better off you will be.

Try to be conscious of the following when dealing with major events:

  • Don’t let the problem paralyze you. It’s ok to be stunned at first, but then you need to focus on what you need to do to move forward and get through it.
  • Recognize that you’re not alone. One of the worst feelings during times of crisis is feeling isolated or like you’re the only one dealing with a problem. You are not.
  • Reach out to your team, board or trusted business and personal advisors. They will have stories to tell and strategies and ideas you can draw from.
  • Make tough decisions. It can be difficult to do this in times of great uncertainty, but be decisive. Remember you can always correct a decision with another decision.

Machine shop owners are a creative and resilient group of individuals. We take the problems that come our way and find solutions. While it may be too soon to add COVID-19 to my list just yet, I look forward to the day that I can.

About the Contributor

Tom Marini

Founded in 1952 as a small machine shop, Marini Manufacturing has grown into a modern provider of precision-machined components and assemblies. Email tmarini@marinimfg.com or visit marinimfg.com.