It’s a Twister, Auntie Em

by Annie

in strategery

Tornado approaching a house

Shit happens, compadres. Is your cellar ready?

So yesterday was a pretty shitty day, I don’t mind saying.

I’ve been having a rough few weeks. Deadlines changing, trouble with my own artistic work in progress, and my daughter – my precious 11-going-on-28 baby girl – has been plagued by a skin thing of mysterious origin and insane proportions of itchiness.

She’s visiting her Dad for two weeks, so for the past 10 days I’ve been … a tad preoccupied, shall we say? The rash got worse during her visit with her Dad, who after consultation decided a visit to the old pediatrician (I mean the pediatrician she used to see when we all lived there, not that the doctor himself is old) was in order.

And that’s not even taking into consideration all the dominoes down the line that are falling as a result of these preoccupations: the clients whose sites aren’t playing nicely with the upgrades, the ebook going unwritten, the delays growing into overwhelm, the frustration growing into sheer rage.

Which is where I was yesterday morning — trying to juggle the damn balls that just would NOT stay in the air and waiting for the call from the Ex to report back whatever the doctor said about my baby’s health. And, of course, the damn phone didn’t ring. At all. The call went straight to voice mail and I didn’t even get that annoying automated cell-phone voice telling me I had a new message.

I did, however, get the text from my baby. Two words. The diagnosis. (Which I’m not sharing here, for what should be obvious reasons.) Tried calling the Ex, but he was getting ready for work.

So, while I waited for the return call, I did what I always do when faced with a new problem: I researched. Typed in those two words, checking my baby’s spelling (and it was right, which was impressive, considering the particular words), and clicked on the first result.

And the following words jump out at me:

… rare …

dermatological emergency

… serious

… potentially fatal …

Yeah. So that happened…

Suddenly, everything else went poof. My baby was sick, seriously sick, and not only was I not with her, I wasn’t able to go be with her. She’s a state away and I have no car.

And everything else went poof.

Now, before you go all ZOMG ANNIE! and HOLY SHIT WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING! (which I totally appreciate, by the way), let me reassure you all (and myself one more time, ’cause I have kept telling myself the following for the last 24 hours) of what I found out after the mini-freak-out was over:

  • It’s potentially fatal only when the person is immuno-compromised and doesn’t get prompt treatment.
  • There are four stages to this illness, much like cancer (it isn’t cancer, though – no more freak-outs), and kiddo’s in stage one – i.e., way early, we caught this.
  • She’s going to be fine.
  • And just to be sure, I’m getting a second opinion from her pediatrician here.

After I realized all that and the heart rate returned to something resembling a normal range, I did what I had to do. Made the plans I needed to make to get my girl back. Rearranged what needed to be rearranged. Renegotiated what needed to be renegotiated. Breathed the whole time. (I was very proud of that last part.)

And all that is just the lead-in to the next thought I had:

I am much better at this storm shit than I used to be.

Business Storms: Twisters and Hurricanes

The last time an unfortunate life event intruded on my business wasn’t such a pretty story. The details aren’t important and would take up about another gazillion paragraphs if I told the story accurately, so I’ll skip ’em here (though I’ll share them soon, in a different venue).

The important part of the story is this: it was a different kind of thing altogether. Instead of a bolt of destructive lightning in a cloudy sky, it was more along the lines of the old saw about putting a frog in a pot of cold water and gradually turning up the heat.

Suffice to say: one day I woke up and shit was bad, and it had been getting bad for quite awhile, but I hadn’t realized it.

And what I did next was … well, let’s just say it wasn’t my best moment. It was, in point of fact, monumentally stupid, and cost me almost everything. It was, in short, a big fat Cloverfield-sized failure.

I played ostrich. I stuck my head in the sand and sang “la-la-la-I-can’t-see-you!” until the monster brought it all tumbling down around my ears.

Some storms are twisters. They come at us like runaway freight trains, and sound like them, too. They drop out of the sky, seemingly without warning. All you can do is drop everything, run and hide in the cellar or the bathroom. (Or at the least get far, far away from the trailer park.)

Other storms are hurricanes. They’re slow coming but advance warning isn’t the problem. The problem is that we never quite know just how much we should freak out prepare and respond. Evacuate or ride it out? Tape the windows or board ’em up?

Storm Survival and Emergency Preparedness

Last time, I played ostrich.

This time, I killed the damn ostrich and made a pretty bag out of it. (Y’know. Metaphorically. I don’t condone ostrich-killing. Those suckers can kick & bite, and are mean.) (But they do make pretty bags…)

So what I’ve learned is this: storm survival depends on decidedly unsexy stuff like preparing for emergencies, creating disaster plans, ensuring our insurance is paid up, knowing where the important stuff is and making sure it’s protected, and having some back-up plans in place, just in case the cellar floods or – y’know, whatever.

Some time ago, there was a particular consultant out on teh interwebs launching some kind of product — an ebook, or maybe it was a membership program …

I don’t know ’cause to be really, brutally honest, I kind of hated this person’s marketing of said product, and I stopped paying attention somewhere in the middle of an email that carried the subject line “DO NOT Buy This Consultant’s Product Until You Read This First!!” and started off like a real (and critical) review but then came out from behind the digital curtain and revealed itself as just another head-smacking scummy marketing email from the autoresponder.

Anyhoo. That’s not important. What struck me about the product was this: it was an awesome idea. It wasn’t like any other product that was out there at the time. I have no idea how well it did post-launch, and I’ve found myself thinking over the years that I really hoped someone with a better sense of marketing tackled the subject later, because it really needed to be tackled. It needed to be tackled, hung up from its heels, split wide open and shared with the masses.

It was about the unsexy stuff.

About making sure the foundation of the internet business was solidly in place. That you knew how and when to pay estimated quarterly taxes, for instance. That you knew when you should incorporate your biz instead of plowing on as a sole proprietor. That you, in fact, knew what “sole proprietor” meant — legally, I mean.

And that’s just the kind of stuff you have to look at and handle if you’re serious about your business.

Getting ready for a storm — literally and figuratively — is one of the smartest things you can do as a savvy biz owner.

I’m currently whipping something up in the vein of that product (though not about that specific topic) that I’ll be sharing in the next few weeks, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise. For now, though, I’ll leave you with these questions to get you started:

  1. What would you do if the hurricane hit? I mean if it literally hit. Say some natural disaster comes rolling through your town. How would you keep your business afloat? Think about the worst-case scenarios — the power goes out and stays out for days. The tornado sucks up your laptop and deposits it five miles away in a shower of tiny, shiny parts.
  2. Do you have backup? I mean computer backup — all those vitally important files — and personal backup — a friend or relative who can help you if your home is destroyed.
  3. Are you keeping your financial books in order? If Uncle Sam sends you a tax audit notice, what would you do (I mean, after cursing the IRS and imbibing a few quality shots of whatever tequila you have on hand, natch)?
  4. Are you insured adequately? Don’t roll your eyes at me, mister. I know you’re 20-something and have no kids and whatever … have you ever heard of renter’s insurance? Do you have it?
  5. How flexible are you? If the twister hits — the way my kid’s illness did yesterday — can you psychologically avoid the inevitable debris field? Can you adapt when things aren’t just the way you like ’em, or when you have to drop everything to go get your kid 300 miles away?

I’ll have more details on the super-secret upcoming extravaganza thing I’m cooking up in the next few days. It’s not specifically designed for emergency preparedness and business planning, but it will help you get a handle on some of the underlying stuff, which would make the whole running-away-from-twisters thing a hell of a lot easier.  So stay tuned!

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