How to Prep Your Business for a Personal Emergency
Life is an ironic thing. I thought, hey - I’ll do a series on being human and vulnerable in your business. I’ll batch write everything in one day and totally crush it like last month!
And then my husband got a fever, and chills, and before I knew it- I was spending this Monday at the doctor’s and CVS. Life imitates art, I guess?
Allow me to welcome you to our next newsletter series "Being Human in Business.” For the next five weeks, I’ll be sharing stories and best practices around how to make room for your life in your business, find and give compassion to your fellow business owners, and turn what some may say are weaknesses (like vulnerability) into relatable strengths that make you a better business owner and in turn, make our community better for others.
We’re going to spend a few weeks on this front because this is such an overlooked element of long-term, sustainable success when it comes to both branding and business: creating room for compassion and space to be a real person, not always the perfect entrepreneur.
In today's story, we'll look at:
HOW TO PREP AND HANDLE YOUR BUSINESS DURING A PERSONAL EMERGENCY
If you’re like me, you may be the only person running your business day-to-day. Everything relies on you waking up each day and making things happen.
So what happens when you or your spouse gets sick, your puppy destroys your house, or your friend’s having a “drop everything, I need you” kind of life crisis? Chaos ensues.
Let’s dive into my best advice on how to prep yourself and your business for success when the unexpected rears it’s head.
Do what you can when you need to just drop everything.
I already had the perfect story for this article in a few weeks ago. I had to move client work and meetings around for a family member who was experiencing a major crisis a few weeks ago. But then, of course, my husband got sick out of nowhere.
These things have forced me to do what we all have had to do at one point or another: drop everything.
So what do you do when you need to immediately prioritize your family, friends or even your pet?
Do what you can, as nicely as you can, as quickly as you can. Then focus on what ultimately matters: your life.
- Do what you can. Prioritize what is most urgent to do and do that as your measure for success in the moment. Often, this might be sending an email or calling a client to let them know you need to postpone your meeting. Let everything that isn’t time sensitive wait a minute if you need to.
- As nicely as you can. In the example of sending an email to cancel a planned meeting, even if you don’t know when you’ll reschedule, focus on being honest that something unexpected has come up in your personal life, be brief (no need to get into the weeds or share too much detail), be appreciative of their time, and communicate when you’ll send them an update. If you have to delay client work significantly, consider noting that you’ll be providing them something complimentary or a bonus for any inconvenience (then follow-up when you have more time).
- As quickly as you can. Trust that people are forgiving and get that life happens. As long as you are doing what’s within your control, nicely, and taking care of the urgent things first (aka not deserting a client meeting if you can help it) you are on the right track.
- Get back to focusing on what matters. If you’ve checked the boxes above, give yourself the day or two days to help your friend or family member (or take care of yourself if you’re recovering!) Your business is important but it’s one aspect of your life. If you’ve built a strong business, it can survive a day or two or more here and there when you need to drop everything for a more urgent and greater priority.
Use your judgment and then follow-up as you said you would. Everybody will give you a chance if you’re upfront, gracious, and don’t have “emergencies” all of the time.
Being professional doesn’t mean being perfect all the time. It means communicating, following up and being honest when you need to be.
Prep for the future because these moments will absolutely happen again.
You’ve heard of Murphy’s Law and things are just going to happen. So what can you do to protect your business for a future emergency and drop everything moment? Prepare.
I want to encourage you (and myself) to do the following things to prep your business for a future emergency. What happens if you are in the hospital for weeks? Does your spouse know where everything is? Is it all organized?
Take a moment when you can be focused on your business and take care of the following best practices. When Murphy comes knocking, you’ll be glad you did.
- File Organization: Keep all of your client files organized, clearly labeled in a hierarchy, and backed up (I currently use BackBlaze and an external hard drive for double back-up)
- Online Account Access: Create a master list (printed or digital, per your comfort level) of your business website accounts and passwords - hidden somewhere safe where your spouse or a trusted friend knows they are. The most important ones to do today are your email passwords and your bank passwords, as email passwords can help you reset other accounts if needed.
- Master Contacts: Consider creating (or having a VA create) a current client contact list, so if you needed to delegate to your spouse or a friend, they’d have a quick way to know who to speak with if there was an emergency. This is also great if you get stuck helping someone and need a quick way to remember who to email or call.
- Bank Access: Check with your bank and ensure that your spouse or a trusted person other than yourself has access to your business banking. In the event something happens to you or you are unreachable, you may need another person to have access.
- Out-of-Office for Emergencies: Consider pre-writing an out of office message for your email if you have high-volume email to let people know you may be managing a personal emergency. You can also do a special voicemail on Google Voice or your business number to let people know if you get a lot of phone calls.
- Legal considerations: Think about speaking with a small business attorney about what happens if something physically happens to you or others who have a stake in your business. Don't wait until an emergency to ask these questions and have a plan for what happens in these events. You may also consider addressing emergencies in your contracts with your clients.
Whatever the case, make sure to spend some time on this - physically and emotionally preparing for things that can crop up. It makes it so much easier to take care of yourself and the people you love most when you aren’t worrying about your business.
We all deserve a little grace, and by following the advice here, I’m hopeful you’ll get more of it the next time you have to “drop everything.”
Next week, “Being Human in Business” continues
I’ll be back next week with a new article in this series - talking about secret struggles, spheres of life, and how things are not always as they appear when we see success - especially business success we consider out of reach for ourselves.
What are your questions about being human and vulnerable in business? Let me know - I’d love to help.
- "Business Emergency Plan: How to Create a Back-up Plan as a Freelancer" (Careful Cents)
- "Is Your Business Prepared to Handle an Unexpected Emergency?" (Entrepreneur), About prepping your business for natural disasters, etc.