A few years ago, my son’s boss rang me at work, with the words no mother wants to hear- “There’s been an accident at work. Your son has been rushed to hospital.”
My life came to a screeching halt………
The next hours were full of caring for my 17 year old son, asking all the right questions I could ask doctors & rushing him to a larger hospital for x-rays & specialist advice. Reconstructive surgery was the next day, so that was another wave of emotions- worry, impatience & trying to be the calming force in our family.
On top of this drama, I still had my business to run. In the middle of this emergency, I still had customers that were clueless to my situation. Life, for them, was moving forward. I had to quickly separate business owner from worried mum & decide how to make the best decisions for my business for the next week or two.
Having run my business for over 25 years now, there have been several times when I have been in this situation, where family has to come first & the business has to fall in behind. We have had premature babies, deaths in the family & illness. All of this has to be factored in & planned for- it is just life.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learnt to make these times a little easier on our businesses-
- Stay ahead of your work- this has been my saving grace several times over. The turnaround times I give for my business always have a little extra buffer of time, to allow for things to go wrong. In my current situation, the workflow was on schedule, so there were no looming deadlines that needed to be met immediately. This gave me some breathing space for when I did get back to work. Of course, when life is wonderful, you can just wow your customers when you ship their orders out earlier than anticipated!
- Don’t bury your head in the sand- when a difficult situation does arise, tackle it head on. As my orders were on track this time, I didn’t need to contact any customers to ask for extra time. I did, however, need to slow down what was coming in, in order to finish my existing commitments. Whilst in the hospital, several emails that I answered (what did we ever do before smartphones!) were customers asking to send orders. I simply explained my situation, asking them to hold off until the following week when I could catch my breath & get back to them. All but one were very understanding & were happy to hold off a few days. As to the one who wasn’t obliging- well, that’s not the sort of customer I want to work with!
- Be consistent & professional all year round- my business has never run late for a deadline, without a good reason. I have, though, rung customers from the hospital to explain that I am having a premature baby & won’t be back to work for a little while! Be professional & on time as a rule. When an emergency does hit, your customers are going to know that this situation is out of the ordinary & not just being used as an excuse to cover for your slackness.
- Be prepared to have to work hard when you do get back to work- as organised & ahead in your work flow you are, there will always be times when you have to put in extra hours to catch up. Yes, I was ahead on orders recently, which meant these orders are still proceeding on time but I am now eating into the buffer of time that I had allocated for the next batch of orders.
- Be kind to yourself- allow yourself to recuperate, catch up on sleep & relax before you launch back into work. Looking after a sick baby or maybe dealing with a death in the family is a difficult ordeal & does takes its toll. Failing to be kind to yourself will definitely result in burnout- don’t ask me how I know!
These difficult times can be quite demanding but isn’t this why most of us started our own businesses? To be able to be flexible when life does throw us a curve ball, to stop everything to be able to look after our families in times of need.
Yes, I’ve come back to work hitting the ground running but I will be forever thankful that I was able to be there for my son when he needed me, without having to ask a boss’s permission for time off!
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.....