It’s the 1st of October 2019 — and James just lost his only big client worth around £350,000. 

Around 90% of his nascent recruitment businesses’ earnings were gone. 

To make matters worse, he found out in the newspaper. 

All of the signs were there.

The client had been late in paying them since they started working together 2 years ago. And staff that they had recruited for them were getting late payments too. 

Dealing with uncertainty in business was the norm with them. And it had put a big stress on James’ personal and professional relationships as he waited as long as 6 months for payments.

But they had all the documents that promised James it would be okay. So he had continued to wait.

Until they went bust.

Panicked and angry, James felt like he had been fooled.

And now he was embarrassed that, not only had he been lied to, but he had put all of his eggs in one basket and jeopardised the company. 

With all the emotions that he was feeling, James wasn’t thinking clearly. And he stayed that way for 2 weeks. 

Looking back now, he knows that working with him in this period of time was far from easy. 

Dealing with Uncertainty in Business at This Moment, and in the Future

As a recruitment agency, it wasn’t just his team that was affected by the business going bankrupt.

But those who had been hired through them too. 

Because the company hadn’t been paying James, he had taken money from his own accounts to pay his staff until they did. 

He had put his own family on the line to make the business work. 

On top of that, he had employees from the company calling him up asking why he had put them there in the first place. 

The pressure was immense.

The only solution to save the reputation was to find those that were now jobless, new work.

When he eventually did take action, there were moments when James thought about remortgaging his own house to cover it. 

Then, he started to see the solutions in his mind. 

He knew where he could find jobs for those that had lost them. And prevent anyone from losing their homes because they couldn’t pay rent.

The solutions were not as profitable as they would have been previously — but it was possible. 

At the time, the level of embarrassment James felt meant he didn’t tell family, friends or peers. He just put his head down and fixed the problem.

Looking back now, he knows he wouldn’t do that.

As a manager today, James feels calmer. He’s also aware that at the time, this mistake was down to being a new manager, and not knowing the classic mistakes that new business owners do… so he made them. 

Experiencing Uncertainty Again with COVID

When the pandemic hit — all businesses had to deal with uncertainty in their business sector. But after going through this client loss, James recalls dealing with the pandemic in a much more relaxed way. 

He didn’t feel anger, there was no 2-week pause — he just took action. He saw that it wasn’t going to be over any time soon, and prepared in that way. 

So much so that when furlough options came available in the UK — his team didn’t need them. 

What Retrospect Brings

Looking back, James recognises how much accountability he felt in that initial moment. There were a lot of risks that shouldn’t have been taken — especially putting himself on the line for his client’s behaviour. 

Now, he sees that he let the lack of control take over his management style rather than focusing on what he could control.

That initial 2 weeks — where he was almost paralysed with guilt — was actually crucial for saving the business and the staff that were recruited by the client. 

James sees this as a catastrophe mindset and has since learned to challenge this mindset when it arises. 

In this episode, we talk about 

  • How he handles uncertainty today
  • The dangers of putting all the eggs in one basket
  • The impact of your reactions on your team

James has clearly had a lot of time to reflect and learn from that day. And has since been able to scale his team, take on multiple clients and build strong relationships with them. 

Tune in as he shares how he would handle this situation now — and what his key learnings were.