Today’s guest post is written by Jennifer Reitmeyer. We admire Jennifer greatly because she’s a smart cookie. She is a business coach, speaker, educator and entrepreneur who has worked in the wedding industry for 19 years. Her newest venture, Authentic Boss is something you should check out. (And make sure to read to the end for a promo code for her new program.)
Starting, and operating, your own business is extraordinarily exciting. For many of us who are entrepreneurs at heart, doing so is a dream come true. All the long hours, hard work, and sacrifices made are well worth the pride and success we feel when our business takes off.
And then reality sets in. Suddenly, a personal crisis – maybe one that you never saw coming – pulls the rug out from under you and threatens to crumble the business you’ve worked so hard to build.
It’s sad, and I wish it weren’t true, but the fact is: if you remain in business for any length of time, something is going to happen. That’s just life, and for those of us in business for ourselves, life and work are constantly intermingled.
In my geographic market, and in 2015 alone, I know multiple wedding pros whose worlds have been rocked by personal disaster. (I’ve been through some of these this year, too – none of us are immune forever.) Deaths of spouses, parents and children. Divorce. Devastating health issues, theirs or a loved one’s. Fire. Theft. The list goes on. And none of these things are easy to navigate in the very best of circumstances, but they’re infinitely harder when we have businesses to maintain.
While we can’t prevent these unforeseen catastrophes from occurring, we can make sure we’re as prepared as possible to mitigate the damage before it happens. It’s the closest we can come to crisis-proofing our businesses.
Here are five steps you can take to plan your strategy for keeping your personal emergency from becoming a business emergency.
Step 1: Know your role.
Do you have a job description? Even if you’re a solopreneur, you should have a clear picture of your tasks and responsibilities, and what absolutely has to happen to keep your business afloat. Take a literal inventory of what occupies your time: spend a week meticulously noting what you do, from client service to marketing to administrative work to surfing social media. Then add in any monthly, quarterly and yearly responsibilities for which you need to plan, and you’ll have a picture of what your role actually entails. Only then can you identify your real critical tasks – those basic-yet-essential things that can’t be ignored, even when everything is falling apart – and decide how those critical tasks can be executed in times of crisis.
Step 2: Embrace automation, delegation and outsourcing.
Creating systems and workflows for your business will benefit you 100% of the time, not just when you’re in crisis mode – but when your life suddenly becomes a mess, they’ll suddenly be invaluable. If you don’t yet have these things in place, take time to explore the tons of resources available to automate major portions of your work: customer management, online contracts and invoicing, expense tracking, social media scheduling and more. And consider bringing on some help. You’re not the only entrepreneur trying to live his or her dream! There are lots of talented, trustworthy people out there offering services for everything you can imagine, from virtual assisting to bookkeeping, answering services to errand services. You may even have someone you currently work with who’s itching for a bigger role within your company – perhaps you can try delegating some tasks to them now, while things are running smoothly, so that you can provide additional training and support as needed. Delegating will save you time now, and may save your business in the future.
Step 3: C.Y.A. (Cover your assets!)
This should go without saying, but trust me: some people really need to hear it. Make sure that your liability and property insurance are current and that your coverage levels will actually cover you in an emergency. Be sure, also, that the insurance policies that cover your personal life (such as health and short-term disability) are up-to-date, too. Having the right insurance coverage is easy to overlook when things are fine, but you’ll have serious regrets if disaster strikes and you’re left footing the bill. Additionally, if you work with independent contractors of any type, make sure your legal agreements are both binding and mutually understood, so that you can rely on your talent with confidence while you deal with your personal issues.
Step 4: Rally the troops.
Or, perhaps more accurately, rally your support network – and if you don’t have one, you need to cultivate one before crisis strikes. Having people you can trust and depend on is invaluable when you can’t put your all into your business. Whether they’re filling in for you on jobs, drumming up support within your community, or just offering solid advice and a listening ear, having this kind of safety net can make all the difference, logistically and emotionally, when times are tough.
Step 5: Give yourself permission to drop that entrepreneurial hustle.
Remember that you created your business to sustain you over the long haul, which means you need to be comfortable accepting the stages through which your business will pass. I like to say that, as an entrepreneur, some years are your rock star years, in which you achieve goal after goal and it’s crystal clear why you went into business for yourself. Others are your transitional years, when you’re more reflective on what you want and what needs to change to get you there. And, truly, some are your survival years, when the best you can do is hope to weather the storm. We all go through it, and we deserve to give ourselves permission to step back when we need to take care of ourselves and our personal obligations. Whatever you do, commit to not judging yourself for sometimes just staying afloat. When things are really bad, staying afloat is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Jennifer Reitmeyer is a business coach, speaker, educator and entrepreneur who has worked in the wedding industry for 19 years. She currently owns four ventures: Authentic Boss, a newly-launched online learning resource for entrepreneurs seeking to work and live more authentically; WeddingIQ, a business blog providing content relevant to wedding professionals; MyDeejay, an award-winning wedding entertainment company based in the Washington, DC area; Firebrand Messaging, a boutique copywriting and content marketing firm serving creative entrepreneurs. Sage Wedding Pros readers are invited to take 20% off any purchase in the Authentic Boss shop, good through January 31, 2016, with promo code SAGE0116.