Resilience Series 2: Change Gears When Disaster Strikes

 In Operations

Legal problems exist in many small businesses. The question is, how do you get back up after falling down; and how can you use a setback to propel your business forward?

Just ask Eric Burns, a bar owner and transportation consultant in Omaha, Nebraska.

In many cities, people jump on public transit after an evening of food, entertainment and drinks. In Omaha, though, the buses shut down at 10 p.m. Burns combined the knowledge from his two careers to create Nightlife Transit, a private “party” bus service that navigates Omaha’s entertainment districts from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

He rented biodiesel-fueled buses, which allowed him to scale the service up and down as needed. He also put a tour guide on each bus who provided a fun atmosphere while pointing out specials that partner bars were offering that day, like half-priced appetizers.

Area bars, nightspots and apartment buildings clamored to be on the route. Burns won awards for his business plan. It had everything going for it. Concurrently, it served a business need and had a strong social mission: reducing the chance of drunk drivers in an environmentally safe way.

“We operated for about three months, gaining an enormous amount of traction and were being approached from individuals from around the country looking to franchise our model,” he says.

So what could go wrong?

“During this time a competitor in our market didn’t want us in their space and protested our certificate of authority for the bus line,” he says. “We spent the next few months battling our competitor over legal issues. Eventually, they nearly bankrupt us and we didn’t have the funds to continue paying our lawyers.”

And so a great idea disappeared. That would be enough to make many people give up the idea of running their own business and flee back to the safety net of a 9-to-5 job.


The Big Idea

Instead, Burns immediately began building a new business, called Gazella WiFi, which helps automate restaurant marketing. “We’re creating an auto-lead generation system to help restaurants sell more,” he says. “This business is gaining more traction everyday and we are able to make an even larger impact for our customers.”

Lesson: Be flexible— bad stuff will happen. If your business crashes, look for planks in the wreckage to rebuild, with a mindset that you need to accept the reality and not be deterred.

Resilient people don’t dwell on the past; they learn from it. And they get up quickly, giving themselves a limited amount of time to lick their wounds. Indeed, a recent study found that an entrepreneur’s chance for success rises with each failure he’s had in the past.

“There will always be mistakes in business, the more mistakes you make, the more you learn,” Burns says. “Mark Cuban often says ‘you only have to be right once.’ While my business won awards, it didn’t take off as ideally as I wanted. I learned an incredible amount about the legal, sales and business relationship aspects of running a business. I feel more confident than I have ever before, and I know my current successes would not have come without a little struggle.”


Strategic Funding provides needed operating funds to small businesses. Strategic Funding has helped business in hundreds of industries.  Industries served include: restaurants, personal services, construction, medical, manufacturing, agriculture, retail stores, automotive, and food stores.

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