The computer I’m writing this blog post on is powered by a generator.
That’s because I’m writing this post hours after Hurricane Irma cut its cruel swath through Florida and the Caribbean.
First a quick update: we are fine, thanks. Our house is a bunker and held up to the winds. We have significant tree damage but everyone here is happy and healthy. My mother, sister, and brother and their families all stayed at our house and despite the storm howling outside, we enjoyed a safe and secure few days together.
Natural disasters, hell, disasters of any kind, have an interesting way of clarifying what’s important. After all, when you’re surrounded by 100+ MPH winds, it’s hard to worry about your golf score, your neighbor’s new Lexus or whatever petty foolishness has been cluttering up your mind. Instead, the necessities of life come into sharp focus. It’s almost like Maslow’s Hierarchy popped off the page of your college sociology book in crystal clear relief.
First comes safety, solid shelter, having something to eat, and clean water.
Next comes comfort – electricity, air conditioning, refrigeration.
Only with the cleanup after the storm do more things start to intrude on your consciousness – things like damage to possessions, ability to get to work, clean up.
From all this I’ve determined that the four most important things for both weathering a storm and returning to some degree of normalcy afterwards are:
2. Friends and family
3. Water, and
Preparation matters because the more you do to prepare for the disaster, the easier it will be afterwards. In the case of a hurricane, having shutters, a working generator, plenty of fuel, etc. significantly increase your odds of surviving the storm and being able to pick up the pieces afterwards.
Friends and family matters on so many levels, from having people to huddle with during the deluge to working together to clear the shared roadways of debris afterwards.
Water is a metaphor for all necessities. After all, life does not exist without water.
And finally, cash. After a storm, the credit cards and ATM cards we mindlessly depend on most days are just worthless plastic playing cards taking up space in our pockets. But cash is king – at The Home Depot, the grocery store, or to pay the lawn guys who help clear debris.
Of course, this blog is not about my personal life or musings. Instead it’s a business blog devoted to brand building, innovation, and leadership.
So why the hurricane story?
Because the four requirements for surviving a storm are the same necessities you need to grow your business.
If nothing succeeds like success, then nothing gets you as ready for success as being prepared. Education, planning, dreaming, visualization, and thinking things through are all critical to being ready for whatever happens in your business. It’s hackneyed and corny, but failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
2. Friends and family
At home there’s nothing as comforting and helpful as friends and family. In business the same can be said for relationships. The banker who knows you and trusts you and extends credit and services. The distributor who knows they can count on you and is available when you need them. The clients and past clients who are thrilled with your products and services and continue to buy from you and provide you with referrals for new business. The knowledgeable friends and professionals who arm you with advice, contacts, and skill sets to deal with the things you don’t know enough about. Again, it’s corny but people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.
Of course water is essential. But in this case it serves as a metaphor for your brand. Warren Buffet says that a strong brand is the most valuable thing Berkshire Hathaway buys when it makes an acquisition. In the wake of a storm, and after a business setback, buildings can be rebuilt and cars can be replaced but a damaged brand and reputation are not so easily repaired.
4. Finally, cash.
Most business that fail – especially new businesses – do so because they are undercapitalized. Just like revenue provides a company with the people and materials it needs to thrive and prosper, revenue also overcomes a lot of sins. Mistakes are less fatal when you have the financial wherewithal to deal with them.
Got cash in your pocket after a storm? You can buy food, gas, chainsaws, and anything else you need. Have money in the bank after a business setback?
Likewise you can pay your taxes, cover payroll, restock your inventory, and continue to operate.
When a hurricane is thundering down on you and you haven’t prepared and don’t have friends and family, water or cash, you can go to a community shelter. It may not be pleasant and it certainly won’t be comfortable but it will be safe.
When your business experiences a setback and you don’t have those necessities – preparation, relationships, necessities and cash, there’s often nowhere to turn. But with a little planning and discipline, you can learn from Hurricane Irma and be ready for whatever comes next.