Facing business adversity: A personal story of resilience

Leader Talk Guest 1

Welcome back to Leader Talk! In episode 64 we spoke to Braian Szwarcberg-Poch and Allie Szwarcberg-Poch, the Directors and Founders of Allie’s Cold Pressed Juices. 

Allie founded Allie’s Cold Pressed in 2014 out of her passion for creating nutrient-rich juices using locally sourced ingredients. In 2018 Braian joined his wife on her entrepreneurial journey. However, amidst their rising success, Braian was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer. Despite the shock, Braian approached his treatment with determination, viewing himself as not yet a cancer survivor, but a cancer fighter.

In this chat we spoke about their story of perseverance, resilience and success.

Want to learn more? You can read or listen to our chat with Braian and Allie Szwarcberg-Poch on YouTube, Spotify, Listen Notes, or Player FM. It’s also available anywhere you listen to your favourite podcasts via Buzzsprout.

Authored by Braian and Allie Szwarcberg-Poch, Directors and Founders of Allie’s Cold Pressed Juices.

In the world of a small business owner, facing adversity is inevitable and scary, but it’s also an opportunity for growth and transformation. As someone who was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer ten months ago, underwent treatment and is now in remission, I can humbly say that embracing the right mindset, adopting effective strategies, and having the support of the right partner is the key to overcoming adversity and emerging stronger than ever. In this article, we explore three essential pillars for handling adversity in your business.

Have a product you can be confident in
First and foremost, you need a great initial product or service. Instead of fixating on complex business models and concepts, focus on creating something exceptional and getting it out there. Then, it’s just a matter of listening to what people have to say about it and refining it. Listening to feedback is the most crucial part of product development, allowing you to build a solid foundation that will help you face adversity.

In our case, we came up with a simple product of cold-pressed juices. For the first five years, we were selling in farmer’s markets, seeing which flavours sold best day by day, and refining the ones that didn’t. The product you see today is the result of five years of testing everything from flavours and ingredients to bottle shapes and price points, all based on customer feedback. With this, we could feel confident in our product to transition from farmer’s markets to wholesale. Find opportunities where you can sell your product or service and gain immediate feedback. It will give you the knowledge and confidence that you’ve created something valuable and sought after, and you can start to expand and face adversity head-on.

Of course, testing and refining isn’t limited to your product or service. Operational factors like where you source your products and talent, how you price your offerings, and how you deliver them will all come together over a long period of testing and refining according to your customers.

However, one thing to avoid when you do start achieving a level of success is becoming distracted. A lot of business owners see others enjoying their business and start wanting to do, sell and be more. During this time, there has to be a bit of discipline in not getting distracted or overzealous. In your early years of the business, you may not have the money, but you do have the time, and when you start thinking about other ideas, you’re investing that time away from something that’s already working. Focus on perfecting and scaling what already works.

Success hinges on creating a strong product or service that meets people’s needs and wants. This foundation will be the key to overcoming anything that’s thrown at you along the way.

Find a great partner
Navigating adversity alone can be overwhelming, which is why having a great partner by your side can make all the difference. Whether it is a life partner, business partner, or a trusted colleague, finding someone who complements your strengths and provides unwavering support is invaluable.

Many people find lifelong romantic partners because they’ve found somebody who they connect with and see themselves having a lasting relationship with. This should be the same for any type of relationship, whether personal or professional; there has to be a connection for it to be successful. That connection is 70% of the work, so without it, reaching your goals is going to be a struggle.

You could hire somebody based on their experience or qualifications, but at the end of the day, if you don’t click with that person on a personal level, it’s the start of an irreparable problem. You can refine and improve a relationship, but a lack of fundamental connection can’t be fixed.

Successful partnerships often involve individuals who complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. What one doesn’t have, the other one does. Finding a business partner who displays different qualities from you will mean you’ll be helping each other succeed rather than competing. So it really comes down to understanding your own strengths and those of your partner. You have to have the ability to admit defeat if you know someone else is stronger in that department. Combing those strengths is the best strategy.

If you don’t have those complementary skill sets, you could almost create it. Take time clearly defining and writing on paper your roles, responsibilities, and areas of expertise. This can apply to any kind of relationship, whether with a business partner or employee. Gain a clear understanding of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and make sure that they have a role that ties into their strengths.

There’s another connection between relationships and business; the fine line between knowing when to stick with it and knowing when to let it go. We’ve learnt first-hand with previous business pursuits that sometimes cutting your losses and learning from that experience is necessary for growth. No business owner ever wants to say they’ve given up, but sometimes it’s a must.

With Allie’s Cold Pressed Juice, we had plenty of opportunities to give up again, but intuitively we felt like this business had something worth fighting for. A lot of running a business lies in intuition. If your business has something worth fighting for, then persevering becomes more meaningful.

Focus on the positives
Whether it’s struggling with cash flow, not having enough stock, or running out of funding, we’ve all run into business challenges. Keeping a positive mindset is key to overcoming obstacles and thriving in the face of adversity. Acknowledge the silver linings, no matter how small they may seem.

Less than a year ago, I was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer and underwent surgery and five months of chemotherapy. It was definitely a spanner thrown in the works of our personal and professional lives. However, we looked on the bright side that at least our business was in a stable position at the time of the diagnosis.

Focusing on the positives has really gotten us through these times. These times have emphasised to us just how important it is to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing. Prioritising exercise, mental health, and diet can significantly contribute to resilience and clarity of mind. We eat a lot better, we’re healthier, we’re more conscious of our family time, and we even moved to buy our first house quicker. Basically, by acknowledging the positives and taking care of your wellbeing, you can navigate challenges and discover new opportunities for growth.

Partners helping each other
From our personal experience as a couple running a business together during challenging times, we have learnt the importance of empathising with one another. Allie took on a lot of the responsibilities at home and in the business once we got the news.

Here’s what Allie had to share about what she learnt as a partner and business owner supporting her partner through difficult times…

The first lesson is to accept help. Prior to Braian’s diagnosis, I wasn’t good at asking for help. We’ve got two small children, and I remember in the first year of motherhood, like many other new mothers, never wanting to take any offers of help. There was a sense that I had to do it all on my own and wear all these different hats. When we got the diagnosis, I had no choice but to ask for help, and it alleviated a lot of the pressure. We started viewing asking for help as a sign of strength rather than weakness.

The second lesson is you can’t lose your sense of self. As mothers or business owners (or sometimes both), we often think of ourselves last. We all know deep down that we have to look after ourselves, guilt is a common and powerful thing. In challenging times, you have to purposely remind yourself to look after yourself.

The final lesson is related to the second – managing burnout. It’s impossible to function effectively without proper sleep, nutrition, and mental wellbeing. Manage your diet and your physical and mental health. Force yourself to go out for fresh air, see friends, or even eat a proper meal. Then you’ll have the strength to carry on with the next hour, day or whatever small goal you’ve put in front of yourself.

Facing adversity in business, especially when you’re just starting to grow it, is inevitable. Adapting your product or service based on customer feedback and ensuring you have the right people around you are key to overcoming business challenges. While we’ve shared our own personal challenges and solutions, it’s now time to ask yourself, how have you embraced adversity and what strategies have you employed to overcome challenges in your journey?