What to do when ‘real life’ gets in the way of your small business

What do you do when your non business life puts up a brick wall that stops your business in its tracks? That’s the problem I was faced with a couple of weeks ago.

I had the beginning of 2019 all planned out, returning to work on 7th January, ready for a full, uninterrupted first week, knowing that the following week would be difficult but manageable as work was carried out on our house.

Well, that was the plan.

First, we had a call from the company carrying out the work to ask if they could bring the job forward a few days. Eager to improve our home and having been told that the renovations wouldn’t get in the way of my work, we said yes.

Next, we received a visit from the man in charge of the team and it quickly became clear that the full implications of renovating our home hadn’t been explained to us. Every room in the house was going to be affected and mostly all at the same time. There was no chance to unplug and move to a different spot, short of relocating to a cafe or McDonalds.

When it was all finished, and the house was liveable again, I settled back down at my desk with a coffee and the dog at my feet. Now, I could get on with some work.

The phone rang. It was my daughter at school. “Can you come get me? I’m sick.”

So, what do you do when this kind of thing happens, when ‘real life’ says, “Oi! You! Don’t think you can ignore me. I’m putting my size 12 loafer down. Pay attention to meeeeeee”.

Swearing is one option but that only offers relief for a while, so what else can you do?

Assess the battleground

Firstly, how long will the interruption last? Are you forced to down tools for just an afternoon, a week or longer? Is the interruption ongoing, occasional or just a one-off?

Who will it affect? What client work will this get in the way of? Can you reschedule any appointments or meetings?

Can you delegate or outsource any of your workload?

Is it possible to work around the interruption, even partially?

Will re-locating to work somewhere else help? Yes, there’s always the cafe scenario but what about a co-working space? Do you have a fellow business owner who could lend you desk space at their office or home for a while?

Is there anything that cannot, under any circumstances, be cancelled or moved?

Communicate

Once I knew that I wouldn’t be able to work during the renovation, I got in touch with my clients to let them know.

You might also need to tell your suppliers, your staff members, freelancers and contractors that you work with, and anyone else who’ll be affected.

Make sure you have ready prepared answers, like how long you’ll be unavailable, reassessed deadlines and what communication there’ll be during the interruption.

Prepare for future ‘real life’

With all the best will and forward planning in the world, real life still manages to trip us up on occasion.

However, if you can put together a process, even a vague process, on how to cope in the case of illness, no electricity supply, or any other business interruption, then you’re halfway towards handling the situation.

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