Hurricane season in NC can be brutal. Although I’ve lived here since a teen, I don’t ever think I will be “calm” during a hurricane. The unpredictability is just too much for me to deal with. Dealing with Hurricane Florence this week drove that home for me. We watched it twist and turn and go from a full fledged beast of a hurricane to a tropical storm that still wreaked havoc on the East Coast of the US. Looked a bit like my business….
I was fortunate during this storm. My area managed to escape the turmoil. But I still had to get prepared, and I still never knew what to expect. I started to get OVER prepared. I figured better safe than sorry. It’s so much easier to be prepared for the worst than to wait til the storm comes to get things together. Unfortunately we don’t do this in other areas of our lives - especially our businesses. Those of us who are small business owners make the mistake of operating just like a small business. Instead, we need to be operating like a Corporation, no matter what size business we own. Truth is, most of us don’t have an emergency kit for our businesses. After thinking about the need for a better contingency plan, I wrote this mini guide for developing an ‘Emergency Business Kit’.
Let me give you a couple of disastrous scenarios that might have a negative impact on your business:
A natural disaster that destroys your physical business or inventory supply
Sudden illness (You, a family member, or a team member)
Geographic economic downturn
Those are just three examples of things that may blindside you and have huge negative impacts on the livelihood of your business. None of those scenarios are things that we necessarily put into our working business plans. But unfortunately they are realistic scenarios that require a bit of planning, a clear head, and the ability to be flexible.
So what are the lessons I learned from Hurricane Florence?
Include contingencies in your business plan.
It’s much better to develop a strategic plan during the quiet moments in your business than it is to do so during chaos. Most people think disaster preparedness only applies to businesses like beachfront restaurants or hotels, but these aren’t the only businesses that can be affected by natural disasters.
2. Have Backup staff
Even if you don’t traditionally have a large staff, it’s important to have people that can be “on call: for you during the tough times. If you can’t afford to hire a large staff, outsourcing a freelance professional is a good short term solution. You can also partner with other businesses similar to yours that can step in and help with the overload. Although they may be a competitor, those people are quite possibly the most qualified to help you run your business effectively. If these aren’t viable options for you, then enlist the help of friends or family. Keep them up to speed with the flow of your business throughout the year. This helps reduce the learning curve when training people to work with you.
3. You are only as good as your last project
You’ve gotta stay in the game at all times. You never know when something will pop up that will result in pausing your operation temporarily. In the event that your business has to go on hiatus, it’s good to have irons already in the fire that can carry you through that time period. The positive feedback and the ability to re-purpose any content you previously put out will help you make an easier transition when you are ready. If you go too long without any activity, you run the risk of having to re-introduce yourself to your industry and start from scratch when establishing a trust factor with your clientele.
So what are some things that I've decided to add to my 'Business Emergency Kit’? 3 simple practices:
1- Better Health and Wellness Plan
Without a healthy body and mind, your business will suffer. While some health issues may not be preventable, there are other things that we can do to ensure that we are maximizing our time when we are healthy. Taking an active role in improving my health and wellness will definitely be an integral part of my business plan from now on.
2- Strict Time Management
“Fail to Plan and You Plan to Fail”. I’m the same person who crammed for my LSAT the night before I took it. Why? Because I knew that I could do that and still ace the exam as I always did with every other exam I had ever taken. But just because it works doesn’t mean it’s a great strategy to employ. In the event that things don’t go EXACTLY as planned, you are stuck behind the eight ball. My new strategy is to have TWO backup plans - One for my time management routine, and one for my actual workflow. Workflows don’t do us any good without implementing your time management sequence.
3- Support Staff
My business has always been run as a Solopreneur operation. Sure, I’ve outsourced things from time to time but I’ve never employed someone on a regular basis. That means that whenever I’m in need of outsourcing a project, I have that long learning curve that we talked about. I have to take the time to explain my business and how I want specific things to go. It sucks up my time, and also presents the opportunity to have things lost in translation.
But what do you do if you can’t afford to have someone on staff year round? There are definitely a couple of alternatives.
In the event that someone needs to come in and work in my business right away, I have systems and documents in place to explain the business and how things flow. With each daily activity, I document the process and check off the items that I complete. I even save my to-do lists and organize them by date. It can be time consuming in the beginning, but once you get the ball rolling, it is actually a time saver.
My Mom is my business “Battle Buddy”. She and I get together over dinner and discuss business goals and progress once a week. We talk about new developments, new goals, and new projects. I keep her in the loop with my business in case I need her help IN the business. In the event that something happens to me, she can step in and take charge. Because she has signed a confidentiality agreement and has been briefed on company projects, she is equipped to draft documents on my behalf, help with lead generation, and check for new industry updates. All of this helps to address (and minimize) that dreaded learning curve that pops up when someone new steps in.
Management Software - There are tons of mobile apps and desktop software programs that can keep you organized and help prioritize tasks. Find apps that help you sync your calendar and business tasks. Programs like Slack, Hootsuite, and Evernote help you communicate effectively and manage your content across a variety of platforms. Millennial marketing guru Chelsea Krost swears by Fin, an on-demand productivity tool that allows you to take your scheduling and organization to the next level. Their features are so in depth that they are akin to having your own virtual assistant. Check out more on Fin on Chelsea's website, and the special offer they are giving to her readers.
Do you have an ‘Emergency Kit’ for your business? What are some of the things that might affect your business in an emergency situation?
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