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How to Stage a Comeback in Your Small Business

Every small business owner struggles. Some simply cannot go on and decide to close the doors. But some make unbelievable comebacks. Against astounding odds, they come from far behind — and fight back to win. Interested?

I have studied hundreds of personal and professional comebacks, and research shows that all have three simple components. We find all three in the unlikely story of a basketball game termed “the greatest comeback in college basketball history.”

8 Points in 17 Seconds

On March 2, 1974, the #4 University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels faced the unranked Duke Blue Devils in Carmichael Auditorium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Legendary coach Dean Smith was coaching UNC that night and the boys in baby blue were down by 8 points with 17 seconds left. Their odds of winning were maybe one in a million. Many business owners probably feel the same way.

But before four seconds could tick off the clock, UNC hit two foul shots and scored again off of a stolen inbound pass! To win, Duke had to perform one of the simplest tasks in the game: get the ball in play for a few seconds. But by the time 10 more seconds slipped off the clock, UNC stole another inbound pass and scored another 2 points!

Can you believe how drastically the situation changed in such a short period of time? The crowds that were filing out the door moments before all rushed back to their seats. It was mayhem in the stands!

Why was everybody so excited? Because comebacks are one of the most exciting things to witness in the world! Comebacks are unexpected, awesome, and the stuff of legends!

Still down by two, UNC had one chance to tie the game, but the play went wrong. Instead of a clean pass out front, the inbound throw hit UNC sophomore Walter Davis in the hands. He dribbled twice and then launched a wild shot from 28 feet (8.5 m) that had little chance of going in. The shot somehow banked in off the glass, tied the score, and sent the game into overtime! Predictably, Duke’s spirit was crushed, and UNC went on to win 96-92.

Against all odds, UNC scored 8 points in 17 seconds and ended up with the win.

Your Comeback

Listen carefully here — no matter what the odds, there is always a possibility of a comeback. Even if that chance is one in a million, it’s still a chance.

It is probably hard to see this chance from where you’re sitting. But look around — comebacks happen all the time! In sports, hospitals, churches, and businesses all over the world; people just like you are beating impossible odds. Yes? Yes.

For your business comeback, you’re going to need three simple things: a spark of hope, a flame up of quick success, and a push for the win.

1. A Spark of Hope
With 17 seconds on the clock, UNC stole the inbound pass and scored a quick layup. That was their spark. That was an event that cracked open the door to the slight possibility of a win. It gave them hope and motivated them to fight.

You must watch for your spark of hope. A new contract, a profitable turn, maybe even reading this story — there are many sparks of opportunity for a small business.

2. A Quick Flame-Up of Success
The spark is a cue! UNC was sparked with that first lay-up, and from then on they were fired up! It was their frantic defensive efforts in the next few seconds that made Duke fumble the ball out of bounds, and it gave UNC the chance to win!

Careful — this is a tricky stage. UNC made the inbound pass but then missed two consecutive shots.

Did they quit when they first missed? Did they give up after the second miss? They could have thrown up their hands, walked off, blamed the coach, and talked about how close they were. But they didn’t.

They were fighting for their one chance in a million. You’re going to have to fight for yours.

When you fight and achieve that quick flame-up of success, it gives you confidence and momentum for the final phase of any comeback: the push.

3. The Push
When Duke finally inbounded the ball, time ticked quickly off the clock. The Tar Heels didn’t panic. They had time.

They played solid defense and quickly fouled Duke’s Pete Kramer. He missed his free throw, setting UNC up for that final play.

But one play did not put UNC in that position. It was a series of plays — a period of doing the right things over and over again. It wasn’t enough to try; they had to execute well over time.

You might not want to hear it, but a comeback cannot happen without that time of simple execution — you (and no one else) doing the right things over and over again.

Your Win

Now think about your win, your comeback. It’s just sitting out there waiting for you to decide you want it, no matter the odds. You already know what to do. Just like UNC, you probably have enough time for a good shot, but time might be running out.

Let this message be your spark. Start fighting and get a quick flame-up of success. Don’t quit — not next week, not next month. Do the things you have to do to get your win: The comeback of your small business (and your life) could start right now.

About the Author:
Travis LeFever, MBA, entrepreneur, and NACE Instructor, owns a construction/consulting company specializing in concrete rehab, coatings, and sealants. LeFever also coaches construction executives and is a motivational keynote speaker. He lives in Greensboro, N.C. For more information, contact: Travis LeFever, (239) 292-3750,

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