crisis- proof planning

Crisis-Proof Your Solo Business: 5 Tips to Help You When Things Go South

This is a guest post by Solo PR Pro Premium member Susan Stoga.

I’ve worked in crisis communications since I was 22, and was taught from the start to be prepared for anything. 

Several decades later, I use some of the same strategies, and yet others have gone by the wayside (updated fax list, anyone?) but that basic premise of being vigilant and ready for anything has remained. While many of us implore our clients to prepare in advance for crisis scenarios, how many of us do the same for our own businesses? 

There are many ways one can, and should, crisis proof your solo business. 

I was reminded of this earlier this April when I had anticipated surgery at an unexpected time, forcing me to take more than a month off, plus work a pared back schedule as I fully recovered.  My situation was fairly straightforward, but the chances of something going wrong always exists, not to mention COVID, car accidents and other things we’d really rather not think about. So I went into surgery prepared with my medical power of attorney and my will, which I am hoping you also have.

But what about business owners?  Here are five things to think about as a business owner to ensure your business continuity in case of a personal crisis.

1. Show yourself some self-care

Get some disability insurance today as you are much more likely to be disabled than to die.

Mine, secured affordably with a known congenital heart condition, provided me with substantial income during my six weeks out of the office. Who knew it would cross over a pandemic when clients eliminated or reduced their retainers, making cash flow more uncertain? 

The money I received helped tide me over and most of all, provided peace of mind and 60% of my pretax income if I was permanently disabled.

2. Ask for help

Preparing for surgery, pregnancy or assisting a child or parent that will keep you out of the office? This is not the time to do it all, even if you are a solo. 

In the six months preceding my surgery, my medical team tried various medications, and thanks to the support of fellow Solo PR Pro members Anne Isenhower, Orly Greenberg Telisman and Bob Spoerl who helped me keep my business running on a day-to-day basis, I was on track for a record year. While I have a small team, having these folks available made sure I was giving my same level of counsel and serving my clients well when I needed some support.

Clients were happy and referrals were rolling in, thanks to my Solo network AND my ability to ask for help.

3. Find your person

Springsteen has Little Steven, Benson had Stabler and Meredith had Christina. 

Who do you trust to make business decisions on your company’s behalf? 

For 15 years, I was in a business partnership, and had legally outlined rights of succession in the event of illness or death. Being on my own since 2015, I needed to assign someone to cover for me AND to let clients know who to call during my time off. 

My person now is someone who has worked with me for 10 years. 

Considerations to keep in mind when choosing your person: select someone whose ethics, client service mantra and skills match your own. You want someone who could take over your accounts in the short and long term.

4. Do a quarterly update

I’m constantly reminding our clients to review their crisis plans, contact lists and other business owners to review their own crisis plans. 

Do the same for yourself. 

Update passwords and place in an area where someone trustworthy can find them; ensure you haven’t changed usernames or anything else on an account. Keep a list of your bank account numbers handy in case checks need to be deposited. 

This is crucial if you pay staff, freelancers or other vendors on a regular basis, and someone can do so if you are out of commission. Also review your client contact lists of emails and phone numbers so your consigliere can reach out.

5. Consider the worst scenario

Laws differ from state to state, but do not leave your loved ones, or your estate, with a mess to deal with in terms of closing down or selling your business. 

Have a file marked “in case of emergency” with your incorporation papers and details relating to your business. Think about what you want for both your clients and your loved ones.  

Do you recommend referring clients to others, or will you give a valued colleague the chance to buy it? This is the time to make your wishes known, and write them down. Check with an attorney in your state for specifics as you may or may not need to have this document it notarized. 

Susan Stoga is the principal and co-founder of Carson Stoga Communications, a firm focused on brand growth and protection, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020. Additionally, she serves as crisis counsel to several public relations and marketing firms across the country. When not working with clients, she works on the front lines of our country’s child welfare crisis, recruiting new foster parents and finding homes for children living in Illinois foster care. She can be reached at susan@carsonstoga.com