Is your business set up to support you during challenging personal times or will it become an additional burden out of neglect; robbing you of income when you need it most and even potentially everything you've invested in it?
My name is Peter. Today I don’t feel like working.
Yet there are a hundred things screaming for my attention.
I should be able to focus but I can’t. My mind is elsewhere, outside of the business and its demands.
It is caught up in the pain of an impending personal crisis and I feel completely powerless to change it.
I am crying, yet no tears are visible. This is not a place I allow myself to cry. Not because I am a man, but because if I start, I might not stop. The business is my last refuge from the reality of my personal challenges.
I seek a way out that I can accept.
I've almost always been able to come up with alternative solutions to problems. That is what being an entrepreneur is about. If you don’t like the answer, you come up with another solution. Be creative. Innovate. Solve and move on.
This is different. This time nothing comes to me and so the pain of helplessness washes over me. It isn’t my business and I am not in charge.
At times the pain manifests as anger and irritability.
This has been going on for several months now and the business is starting to suffer for it.
I know this intellectually but in my heart I find it hard to care. Guilt is not a powerful motivator when compared to pain and the resulting apathy and detachment needed to cope.
I haven’t shared the details with my team. I just can’t. That would feel like failure; like admitting that the outcome and loss are inevitable. Is it pride or fear?
They know something is up. You would have to be blind not to. I can sense a few people are getting nervous. Another item to add to the growing list.
What if I just walked away from everything? Is escape even possible?
Yet that only changes the location. Running away has other complications. I would have to live with that choice. The pain would still be there to greet me every morning.
After a few waves of chest crushing anxiety I manage to calm my mind enough to work on one of those 100 things. It is not the most important but at least I am moving forward again.
And after that I tackle something else until the day has expired only to be repeated tomorrow.
Once in a while I get that old “I can conquer anything” feeling back but it is much more elusive these days than it once was.
I know I can’t go on like this yet losing the business on top of everything else going on outside is just something I can’t handle. Yet I don’t know what to do.
So I try to survive.
You Deserve More Than Survival
I have seen, heard and read about countless variations of stories like Peter’s.
Today it is Peter. But “Peter” could be one of your key employees. Peter could be me.
Peter could be you. In the future or right now.
We can’t prepare for every disaster or problem that life will throw at us. Yet we can prepare things so it is easier to survive and even continue to thrive when adversity hits.
On the personal front things that help include: having a solid network of friends and family, purchasing health and disability insurance, eating healthy, staying fit, etc.
On the business side there are three things you need to put in place in good times so you can survive and even thrive when things aren’t so good.
Build a Solid Leadership Team
Whether you have 500 employees or only 20, you need to start attracting and developing leaders. In fact, along with working on your business that is really one of your primary roles.
Building a solid leadership team means that they can not only survive without you there, but they can keep the strategic initiatives and operations running just fine.
The goal is to have a business that runs fine without you and hopefully, even better with you there.
The key here is that you have to step up as a leader and that is often the hardest part. That means training, delegation, accountability, setting standards and working on the business consistently.
Remove Key Dependencies
If someone in your business did not show up for 6 months, would the business be in trouble? Would clients get consistent value, service and products? Would all the bills get paid? Would sales still happen?
If not, you have a key dependency.
The first one you have to break is the one involving yourself. Let’s face it, if you are there you can probably solve most of the other key person losses but you… you are probably so entwined in everything it would really hurt the business.
Put Systems in Place
The first system you need to put in place is the one that forces you and your team to work on the business, develop leaders and create a high performing team on regular basis.
This is the part that many business owners need help with. How far you need to go in formalizing processes and systems depends on a lot of factors including your culture, your industry and how big and complex your business has gotten.
Then put the processes and systems in place that make your business rock solid. This includes the ones that give you solid marketing, sales, raving clients, motivated and happy employees and more consistent revenue and profit.
Prepare or Get Help
Since life challenges are pretty much a given, make sure you can take the space you need to deal with them by doing the work in advance.
If you are in the middle of it, don’t be afraid to get some help. The price might be much higher if you don’t.
(This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.)