Something hard has happened. Illness, a death in the family, a brutal divorce—and your focus on your business wavers. This is natural, of course; a crisis will need your full attention. But what about your business? Can it survive your crisis? I don’t want to be negative, but an outside family problem can cause small businesses to flounder—and even fail—if you haven’t properly prepared for it. It’s critical to have a strategy in place so your business can thrive, even if you need to step away briefly. Here’s what you need to do.
Establish Your Standard Operating ProceduresThe details might change on a daily basis, but the core of your business likely stays about the same. Simplifying your critical business functions into defined systems will make it much easier for someone to step into your shoes as you delegate your work. This article has some good suggestions, and the book The 4-Hour Workweek is the bible of creating systems.
Determine the EssentialsWhat do you absolutely have to get done for your business to stay afloat—and keep the money coming in? Identifying those tasks and making them the priority during the hard time will ensure things stay solvent. Let the smaller things like networking, blogging, or updating your website wait until you can properly focus on them. Right now is time to do the work that gets you paid.
Delegate and OutsourceI know, I know—the most challenging thing for us small business owners is delegating the work to someone else. But in challenging times, it’s needed. Find someone you can trust who is able to step in when you’re down, and what tasks (such a payroll, running your social media, or human resources) you can outsource.
Set Aside Short Term Working Capital So You Can Pay Bills and VendorsIncome waxes and wanes even when you aren’t in crisis—you need to be prepared. While revenue usually pays your bills, there are times when your receivables are delayed. The best way to determine how much you need to set aside is to determine your operating cycle. And while many small businesses might struggle to have working capital cash on hand, there are other options such as lines of credit to keep you solvent during slow or hard times.
Be Honest With Clients, Customers, and VendorsIt’s okay to tell your clients and customers that you will be taking time to handle your crisis—within reason, of course. You don’t need to share your whole life story. There’s no need to be specific, but there’s no harm in letting people know things might take a bit longer or will be done by your team members instead of you. But you don’t want to keep silent and do substandard work. Better to let them know you’ll need more time instead of damaging your professional relationships.
When life gets hard, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and let your business suffer. But if you take the time to prepare yourself, you will be able to focus on your family and let your business take care of itself. There’s nothing wrong with planning ahead!