Business can lead to cutthroat competition in more ways than one, but I learned that the darkest moments also can lead to the greatest triumphs and best business lessons.
It’s the worst experiences that sometimes teach us the most important lessons. I encountered turbulent times in the inner city of Los Angeles as I built my company into a trusted institution among underserved communities.
My employees and I faced harrowing experiences, such as armed robberies and threats from the mob, which hoped to block some of his expansion plans. The 1992 riots that erupted after a jury acquitted police officers in the beating of Rodney King proved especially distressing. Many businesses were looted or burned to the ground, so we had to scramble to protect my check-cashing locations.
It was gratifying to learn that loyal customers prevented some branches from being torched albeit in unexpected ways. A gang member called us to say he’d always been treated with respect at Nix, so his gang had decided not to burn our buildings because we were part of the community.
4 business lessons learned from hard times
My experiences taught me a number of valuable lessons that relate both to business and life, such as:
- Take responsibility.
This applies to everything that happens, including things you can’t control. Once when an economic downturn left me unable to pay my bills, I contacted each creditor to explain my predicament and work out a payment plan. This upfront approach helped me to avoid bankruptcy.
- Never play the victim role or blame game.
Avoid replaying misfortunes over and over in your mind. Accept setbacks gracefully and concentrate on getting back on track. In the 1990s, a business deal that went awry nearly forced me to sell my company, but instead I focused on solving the problem and stayed in business.
- Be courageous.
The most debilitating human emotion is fear. Learn to keep it in perspective, minimize it when applicable, and harness it to your benefit when need be. Standing up to bullies as a child set the stage for me to be able to stand up to the mob.
- Maintain integrity.
Operating with fair play and compassion is important in building trust. The way some community members protected some of our branches during the riots reflected this. Treating people fairly and supporting community programs paid off.
Good times may be more enjoyable, but challenging times provide more opportunity for growth. Realize that bad people, tough times and mistakes are your teachers. Always ask yourself, “What business lessons do I need to learn from these events?”
Today’s guest contributor is Tom Nix, author of the memoir Nixland, a pioneer of the check-cashing industry, and currently a public speaker and writing focused on helping people overcome obstacles and be successful.