“I don’t know where I’m a-gonna go when the volcano blow.” ~Jimmy Buffett
Ever feel like you’re trapped in a pseudo-reggae song written by a white guy from Mobile, Alabama?
Some days it’s a sick kid, or spouse, or dog.
Some days it’s a key vendor who disappears on you, or a merchant account that freezes a bunch of your funds, or a web host that implodes on launch day.
Some days it’s a choking cloud of ash that spreads over half of Europe.
Rest assured, one day (soon), you’re going to have a crisis in your business.
It may not reach Eyjafjallajokull proportions (and it will probably be much easier to spell). But it’s coming. You can handle it well or you can fall apart.
Here are some ideas for where to go when the volcano blows (and handling it well).
Try not to have one of anything important.
Are you outsourcing some key processes to a VA? Great idea. But start cultivating a backup person for the day he breaks his leg and is out of commission when you really, really need his help.
Do you have a vendor you trust and love? Do keep your relationship with that vendor, but also regularly use a second vendor who’s maybe nearly as good.
Don’t just have their address handy. Use them. Regularly.
It’s always smart to have more than one way for customers to give you money, more than one backup of your database, more than one power supply for your laptop.
The worst “one” of all? One customer.
No client should represent more than 40% of your business. If that’s the case now, build some diversity, fast. No matter how much that client adores and relies on you, clients can disappear instantly, for all kinds of reasons you have no control over. Don’t let them take your business down when that happens.
Richard Branson tells a great story in his autobiography Business Laid Bare. He got stuck at a small airport when his flight was cancelled and he truly, seriously needed to get to a meeting.
Instead of doing what I do, which is to drag my carry-on to the bar and sulk, he walked over to the charter company on the other side of the airport and immediately booked a flight to where he needed to go.
Then he made a handmade cardboard sign selling seats on that flight, walked back to the first ticket counter, and immediately signed up enough stranded passengers to pay the cost of the charter.
I’m not that light on my feet . . . yet. But I’m working on it.
When volcanoes strike, immediately start thinking about your available resources. Try to see as many as you can. (You’ll probably never be able to perceive all of them.)
What could be leveraged differently? How could you borrow from Peter to pay Paul, in a way that made both Peter and Paul happy? Where have you got extra bandwidth that you haven’t been using? How could you do something smarter, leaner, more efficiently?
Of course, it’s a pretty smart idea to start asking yourself these questions before the volcano erupts. But sometimes you need to react to the situation quickly, as it presents itself. Practice that.
Get by with a little help from your friends
Have you got some great business and blogging friends who’ll take a bullet for you?
That’s one of the reasons we go to conferences even if we don’t see a single panel. There’s nothing that can substitute for hanging around with business and social media buddies, turning into actual friends, staying up way too late telling embarrassing stories and sharing tales of woe.
If you’re trying to run a business of any size, you probably get “too busy” for friends. I’m as guilty (actually, probably guiltier) as anyone of that.
Bad idea. As Dan Kennedy said in his new biography,
Wives, dogs and horses may come and go . . . but true friendship is constant and certain.
Fortunately, most of my friends are in the same crazy business I am, so when I disappear for a while to get a stack of launch emails written, they know I still love them.
But I’m (slowly) getting better about making time for some standing appointments with friends. Weekly calls. Actually leaving my office to get a coffee with a local social media pal. Spending time with a friend on the phone to chew on business ideas we may not implement this week (or this year), because they’re fun to think about.
And yes, we do have a weird idea of a good time.
Also, little spontaneous acts of generosity can have a big impact. See a friend mention on Twitter that she’s been meaning to pick up a book? Send her a copy. For twelve bucks and ninety seconds on Amazon, you can make a major impression.
The full catastrophe
Life is all about glitches and problems and crises, both large and small. Without them, we get so bored that we go entirely bananas.
While you don’t want to become a crisis junkie (I’ve seen it, not pretty), you can safely embrace the fun side of working your way through a crisis.
You’ll discover a lot about your own resilience. On-the-fly problem solving will bring out some of your best qualities. And when you work with other people to figure out a path around the volcano, you come closer together.
How about you? What do you do when volcanoes erupt in your business? Let us know about it in the comments.