Learning from Experience

Apr 14, 2020, Written by Sue Miley

learning from experience

I want to share first where my learning comes from.  

I remember driving to my commute job in New Orleans when we heard the news of the 9-11 terrorist plane crashes.  By the time we got to the restaurant I was managing, we had visual of the second plane crash. Everything seemed to freeze in time.

When Katrina hit, I had changed my career to become a Christian counselor and was on staff with my church.  Finding ways to help both physical and emotional needs were overwhelming. Through counseling I met so many who had been caught in New Orleans and evacuated to Baton Rouge.  They saw the stark reality of the devastation surrounding them.

Then Gustav came.  This hit Baton Rouge harder and had more implication for me personally.  My father suffering from congestive heart failure and stroke on route to evacuating and upon his returning home, my Mom had a massive heart attack.  After triple bypass, my Mom came to stay with us for several months. I had to rearrange my private practice so I could care for her. She had a feeding tube and needed both food and medicines several times per day.

In 2016, we had the Great Flood here in Baton Rouge.  At this point, we were doing both counseling and significant business coaching and business services.  The initial week after felt much like this past week has for us at Crossroads.

Businesses and individuals trying to grasp the impact to their families and businesses.  Many lost physical homes and businesses. And in general, with the city shut down for weeks, immediate business was certainly impacted, even if you were lucky enough to have no physical damage.

I have learned a few things over the years in weathering these storms as an individual, a family, and a business.  I thought I would share some of the learning in case it helps you.

Personal Stress and Resilience

I am prone to worry.  I know as a professional I am calm and productive, but trust me, I have a worrying super-power that I have overcome only with the help of Jesus.  In order to do my part to stay physically and mentally strong, I have:

  • Always tried to stay productive; whether at home or work there are things that need to get done.  The more productive I am, the less time available for idle worry.
  • Maintained a healthy eating plan.  I try to continue to eat normal meals, fresh foods, lots of vegetables and stay away from too much junk.  Trust me you feel much worse if you are worrying and comfort eating, and then just feel lethargic and depressed.
  • Reading the Bible and journaling to God (aka prayer).  I have written about journaling many times, here is a good journaling post to check out.  Staying close to God’s word and pouring out my concerns to the Lord is always a huge spiritual and mental relief.
  • And more recently, I try to keep up exercise.  Not only does it burn off nervous energy, it helps keep depression at bay and energy high.

I hate the saying “this too shall pass” but if history proves true in the future, life circumstances do move forward and rebound.

Business Continuity

I know that panic doesn’t help, but I do believe that proactive planning and contingency planning are prudent and make the difference in how quickly your business bounces back.  I have learned over time that liquidity and available cash are important in times of “disaster”. If nothing else, having access to cash gives us peace of mind. But, panic can lead us to distraction, doing things that don’t really help our business, as we chase straw opportunities. 

This learning I posted on FB earlier this week, but will repeat here:

Small Business Owners, here are a few things to consider to secure your business right now:

  • Review your accounts receivables.  Whether small businesses make up your account list or big businesses, now is the time to make sure everyone is current and stays current.  Call on any past due balances and make sure they have everything they need to get you paid.
  • Stay focused.  It is human nature to look for opportunities in catastrophes and economic turmoil.  But if an opportunity is not in your wheelhouse, it can easily be a distraction from what is important.  Make sure you are looking for opportunities in your own areas of specialty.
  • Develop an employee plan.  If schools close, parents will have to work from home.  Also, depending on your type of business, there may or may not be added risk to your employees.  Meet on it immediately so you have a backup plan.
  • Check on your liquidity.  In addition to your receivables, it is important to have access to cash and credit.  Evaluate your current liquidity and determine an action plan if there is a concern.  The federal government is putting in measures to keep access to funding available to small businesses.

More on next steps, after you cover the basics above, next week.

Employees

I know as Christian business owners we want to care for people.  Outside of our family, our employees are right up there. For many small businesses their team is family, or considered family.  I know my business employs four of us that are biological family.

This is where individual businesses all have different situations and resources.  I can’t give a general suggestion because of these differences, however, what I do know that is applicable to all businesses with employees, is:

  • Communicate openly and often to employees.  They are one step removed and they don’t usually know the financial health of the business.  Even though you may not have good news to communicate, “no communication” is worse. Our team members are also managing their stress level and family concerns.  Not knowing is worse.
  • Communicate what you are thinking even if no final decisions have been made yet.  And explain why. In our current situation, the timing and impact of COVID 19 on our health, community, and business are not known by anyone.  All you can do is update your team weekly with what will happen this week, and then next week, and so on.
  • Provide information and resources to your employees.  One restaurant that had to layoff employees provided instructions on how to file for unemployment. Consider what may be helpful to your employees and do your best to aid them in their circumstances.
  • Pray for your employees.  We know that where we are weak, the Lord can work.  We don’t have all of the answers, but He does. So we can pray for our employees and their families, and ask the Lord to work through us as He sees fit.

If you do have to lay-off employees, you also have to trust that God loves them too.  He can provide for their needs even in times that we can’t. So keep praying for them.

This is an evolving process.  The first thing in crisis is to assess where you are and to communicate.

We will provide more insight next week on how to create a plan to be proactive in the midst of crisis….in particular a crisis that is keeping everyone home.  Yes, we can still be proactive. Stay tuned for more information to come.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.