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Crisis Mode

A personal crisis needn't spell disaster for your business--not if you prepare for it.

Every company occasionally endures a crisis. But what happens when your dilemma isn't plunging profit margins-but a personal life that's falling apart?

Because you have no idea what type of personal crisis might await you-an ugly divorce, a debilitating disease, an ailing parent-Paul Krasinski, founder and CEO of New York City-based Lion Strategy Advisors, suggests finding somebody now who can cover your responsibilities for at least 20 days rather than waiting for disaster to strike and finding yourself unprepared.

That employee "needs to be someone who can communicate effectively with your staff and command respect," suggests Krasinski, even if that employee is not the person you feel closest to in the company.

Once a personal crisis hits, Krasinski recommends "full disclosure" to your employees. "They should know what might happen, so it doesn't feel like a bomb hitting their business."

Dana Weidaw concurs with taking the honesty route. As president of Soapbox PR, the 28-year-old had only been in business a year when she was diagnosed with an aneurysm. In October 2003, Weidaw underwent a craniotomy, which involved a surgeon drilling through her skull. Her own business appeared just as frail. Soapbox PR was publicizing a major hockey arena, its first major client-and, if things didn't go well, possibly its last.

Before ultimately missing seven days of work, Weidaw prepped her full-time employee, another agency she was working with and her client by sharing the nitty-gritty details of her crisis. She assured them everything would run smoothly in her absence and was pleased that everybody was willing to work around her crisis."People are, by nature, very sympathetic," she says.

But you need to know when to talk, cautions Krasinski. During and after a personal crisis, full disclosure is great. If you're contingency planning, however, Krasinski suggests it might be prudent to not advertise that if your personal life goes into the tanker, good ol' Gary or dependable Edna will be the one in charge. Your employees may needlessly dwell on why they weren't picked, and why have your staff abuzz about something that hasn't happened? "You don't want to cause widespread distress," explains Krasinski, "or distract from your day-to-day operation."

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the December 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Crisis Mode.

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