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Keep Your Business Humming Amid a Personal Crisis

Create an informational binder ahead of time that will allow someone to run things in your absence.

Being women in the After 55 category, it's not unusual for us to receive a dreaded phone call along these lines:

"This is City Central Hospital, and we are admitting your mother with multiple fractures due to a fall. How soon can you be here?"

"There is an abnormality in your mammogram."

Or, as my husband said, "Honey, I think I am coughing up blood. What should I do?"

My husband's question came less than 24 hours after the website for my new business finally went live. But there wasn't any question about what happened next--I tended to the crisis. In a situation like that, everything else becomes secondary.

A vast majority of women-owned businesses are either one-woman operations or have one to five employees. In an instant, you can go from the excitement and challenges of running and growing your business to having no idea how you can manage a personal crisis and still keep your business on track.

The best insurance against business disruption for any reason is a worst-case-scenario three-ring binder packed with all of the information that would enable a trusted colleague or employee to get up to speed quickly in your absence.

Your first reaction to such a binder might be, "I don't have time for this; I'm stretched as it is." The truth is, you don't have time not to have this if you are serious about your business. If you need to step out of your entrepreneurial role, this is what will enable you to do so with a clear head.

Here are the sections and information the binder should contain:

Products

  • Item names and numbers
  • Variations of the core product(s) and how it/they can be customized
  • Components used in manufacturing the product(s)

Sources

Procedures

  • How each product is manufactured
  • Step-by-step instructions for producing the product(s)
  • Marketing information and placements
  • Office and business procedures
  • Organizational chart indicating responsibilities

Suppliers

  • Names and contact information
  • Component services provided
  • Products affected

Customers

  • Complete contact information
  • Products/services purchased

Advisors - each with complete contact information

  • Attorney
  • Accountant
  • Banker

Pending

  • A weekly recap of business in the pipeline, with complete contact information

This end-of-week exercise is also an excellent focusing tool. It's a snapshot of the health of your business. If there's nothing to write down, you need to attend to the future health of your business.

Some areas of this folio will take time to write clearly. But the rewards extend well beyond a potential emergency, by forcing you to think about how you run your enterprise.

Knowing you have this information at the ready will give you some piece of mind. However, you'll also have to consider ways to monitor your business's progress.

The first few days, a check-in phone call for important questions will be essential. If you anticipate an extended absence from the business, it's imperative that you hold a meeting with your surrogate and your trusted advisors on the best plan of action.

You'll want to make sure that business is being conducted in a manner you approve and that necessary financial transactions occur in a timely manner. Don't be afraid to ask for help at this juncture. Your advisors have faced this situation before and can provide valuable insight, suggestions and support.

No one enjoys thinking about dire circumstances. If your business is truly important to you, taking these steps will ensure that it stays on track while you meet and manage a personal crisis.

Bonnie Price, founder of Silver Vixen Enterprises, is a lifelong entrepreneur. She owns SilverVixens, an online membership community to connect and inform Women of a Certain Age. She also writes the After 55 blog.

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