Home-Biz Battle Stations

Don't let a personal crisis sink your home biz. This six-step battle plan will keep you afloat in rough waters.

By Heather Lloyd-Martin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It can happen in an instant. One moment, you're happilyrunning your business. The next, you're unexpectedly thrustinto a personal crisis like the death of a loved one, a divorce oran illness. And everything changes.

"I think, 'How did I do all that?' " saysEllen Cagnassola, 33. Cagnassola was ready to start her Fanwood,New Jersey, soap business, MaryEllen's Sweet Soaps, when herfather-in-law was rushed to the hospital after a long fight withprostate cancer. Suddenly, Cagnassola found herself balancing astart-up, a 3-year-old daughter and a home-cleaning business-allthe while knowing she had to say goodbye to a loved one. "Ivisited him daily, sometimes two times a day," she recalls.Totally exhausted, she got in a car accident right beforeChristmas. "I had a $500 deductible on top of it all,"she sighs.

Yet with discipline and optimism, Cagnassola successfullysurvived her personal difficulties and developed a thriving soapbusiness that now exports to Switzerland. Best of all, she learnedan important lesson: how strong she really is. "I discoveredI'm great under pressure," she says. "I think thestruggle I saw my father-in-law go through made a big lightbulb popover my head. I know I have what it takes to succeed." Shoulda crisis strike in your home, you, too, can survive by implementingthese six steps:

1. Have a positive attitude. Whereas negative thoughtsshut down options, positive thoughts can open you up to new ways ofresolving your crisis. "The fact is, you can deal with almostanything if you put your mind to it," asserts Kevin L. Polk,Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and owner of Hallowell, Maine-basedTimedoctor.com. "[Instead of saying] 'I can't handleall this. I'm going to lose my business,' say 'Ican handle all this. I may need some help, but I will keepgoing.' "

2. Define the problem, even if it seems obvious, like"My dad is really ill." It's important to figure outhow the problem is affecting your day-to-day life. "Take alook at how the situation is changing your schedule and how yourrelationships with others are being changed," says Polk.

3. Make a list of all the things you could do to dealwith your crisis. This is just brainstorming here-don'toverwhelm yourself. Just choose some things you could do toget back on track. Setting aside 30 minutes for quiet time andcommitting yourself to one hour of marketing a day will keep youorganized and sane.

4. Set up your new schedule. Choose two tasks from yourlist, and figure out how you can fit them into your routine."Do what you can, when you can," advises Cagnassola."Don't abuse yourself, because then you'll be uselessaltogether."

5. Work your new schedule to see how it goes, then,adjust your load until you feel like you've struck a balance.Are you working too much? Is cleaning the house really thatimportant right now? Could you do more? Closely monitor yourthoughts.

6. Review your list every day, and ask a trusted friendor advisor for help if you're feeling overwhelmed. "I havea great family and friends," notes Cagnassola. "Often,I'm not looking for others to solve my problem-just tolisten."

Cagnassola's stressful start-up took its toll, but sherefused to let it stop her. "I approach [stress] like ahurdle," she says. "Who knows? I might find a silverlining along the way or learn something about myself. I usually dolearn that it makes me stronger and more determined-it's anotch on my life-experience belt."

Heather Lloyd-Martin is the owner of SuccessWorks, a newmedia copywriting firm. A recovering crisis junkie, she prefers toavoid stress whenever possible.

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