By Chuck Violand

March 27, 2017

When listening to some business owners, it’s easy to get the impression that you just can’t make some people happy. If business is slow, all you hear is complaining about nobody wanting to buy or their struggle with having enough jobs to keep their workers busy. If business is good, all you hear is how they can’t keep up or how exhausted they are. You get the feeling that some business owners are world-class complainers.

This is unfortunate, because when we’re complaining about things, we’re overlooking the opportunities they might present and the hidden purpose that challenges play in our lives. Every challenge, good or bad, is a gift that’s being handed to us. Our job is to unwrap the gift and discover what we’re supposed to learn from it or how we’re supposed to use it in our lives. In business, we’re being handed these gifts every day.

When our businesses are young, or when they’re small, it’s easy to complain when sales aren’t what we want them to be or when customers don’t pay us on time. Admittedly, issues like these can threaten the existence of our companies. At the same time, if we look a little deeper, are these challenges really opportunities for us to learn? Maybe we learn the discipline to better manage our cash when sales are robust so we have a cushion for the times they’re not. A slow sales period might also give us extra time to visit with current or prospective customers to gain additional work.

As our companies grow, the problems they encounter grow right along with them. It’s easy to complain about the scarcity of good workers or how nobody wants to work anymore. But, maybe this is an opportunity to create a workplace culture that attracts the kind of workers who are engaged, go the extra mile, and give their best every day.

In 2008, during the depths of the recession brought on by the collapse of the housing bubble, I was in Chicago on business. During a cab ride, my driver, Jorge, told me about previously owning a real estate brokerage that had folded due to the downturn in the housing market. He said he started driving a cab to cover his household expenses until the market picked back up. Despite the significant setback he had experienced in his career, I never heard him complain. In fact, he seemed impossibly upbeat. Shortly after that conversation, Jorge started his own transportation company using town cars to transport customers, and his business has flourished. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the Feliz Navida text I get from him every Christmas Eve, but I remain a faithful customer.

The story doesn’t end there. Fast forward seven years to when Uber enters the Chicago market and starts to capture a significant share. Jorge doesn’t complain, but continues to flourish, upbeat as ever, and has even added a couple contractors to help him during peak times.

A recent event in my own professional career painfully reminded me how much work I still have to do with my own tolerance level and with finding opportunities amidst the challenges. I hadn’t sought out this challenge, nor its lesson, but it arrived nonetheless. Through it, I learned that my skin is not as thick as I thought; my patience has not improved like I had hoped; and my ego continues to strain on its leash. I’m not complaining, though. (Or, maybe I am … but just a little bit.)