Personal crises happen all the time and take many forms. Perhaps you or a loved one gets ill, or a natural disaster puts you out of operation for days. Whatever the cause, a personal crisis is one of the most challenging scenarios a small business owner can face, often resulting in lost work, lost income, a buildup of business admin, and confused and overwhelmed employees.
Here are six things you can do to stem the impact of a personal crises and ensure your small business and cash flow are sustained through these difficult times.
6 Ways to Cope with a Personal Crisis as a Small Business Owner
Have a Crisis Plan
Nearly two thirds of businesses don’t have an emergency plan in place. Preparedness can save your small business if a crisis hits.
Plan on hosting a crisis planning session at least once a year with key staff. Discuss the key areas of the business that would be impacted if your absence was forced. Next, come up with an implementation plan. This essentially involves identifying actions and tasks (essential and non-essential) that need to be completed by others in your place. Assign responsible staff managers for each action as well as a surrogate. Communicate the plan to your entire team. For guidance on this step, check out PrepareMyBusiness.org for helpful planning and preparedness tools.
Practice Delegating Authority
Prepare your surrogates by practicing what it would be like to concede control of key business tasks to them. Start by having them shadow you on the tasks and actions that you’ve identified in your plan. Perhaps it’s representing you in important business meetings, signing off expenses and time sheets, or handling payroll or other business admin. By delegating tasks to more than one employee, you’ll avoid overwhelming one person.
Set Guidelines for When You Can Be Reached
If you remain accessible via phone or email during a personal crisis, set and communicate clear guidelines on how and when you can be reached. If your crisis plan is well-established, you should have a hierarchy of needs that indicates when you should be called upon, assuming you’re available.
Get Coverage from a Virtual Assistant
If you don’t have staff to cover for you or are a solopreneur, you might want to consider an automated answer service or virtual assistant to manage your calls, calendar, and even basic accounting while you’re away from the small business. This is a useful exercise that can help you out in any number of situations beyond a personal crisis. For example, if you are taking a vacation, going on business travel, or planning maternity leave.
Prepare Your Finances
Having a solid view of cash flow is essential to ensuring any small business can survive a potential crisis. Your cash flow forecast can help with this, but only to a certain degree. For example, while it can help you predict business or seasonal fluctuations, it won’t help you predict a personal crisis or its impact on your cash situation, which is why any small business owner needs a cash flow backup plan. This could be a financial cushion, line of credit, or business credit card. This is particularly important if you expect your absence to go on for several weeks or if you are a solo-run businesses or freelancer who can’t delegate business operations in the event of a crisis.
Another option is to use services like Fundbox. Fundbox provides an advance against unpaid invoices, giving you cash upfront for a low fee. You can use these funds towards paying your bills or re-investing into your small business.
Make Sure You Can Access Your Business Data from Anywhere
If you can’t be at work, make sure you have access to important files from home or on-the-road. Tools like Google Drive, Carbonite, and Dropbox give you access to documents and files from anywhere while online accounting apps like Freshbooks, Xero, and QuickBooks Online give you access to important financial data and tools without the need to be in the office. You can even give your accountant access so they can keep things moving in your absence.