Problem solving

Disaster recovery: Coming back from the brink

- March 20, 2011 3 MIN READ

My business almost folded after I suffered a head injury. But this isn’t a ‘poor me’ scenario; it’s a disaster recovery story about how it made me stronger, wiser and happier.

While I was asleep in the early hours of an April morning last year, my lovely ginger cat, Stanley, knocked a metal candlestick off the bedpost and on to my head. I woke up suddenly, screamed at Stanley and promptly lost consciousness, waking up again a few hours later with a throbbing headache.

Being the professional I am, I took some paracetamol for the pain and made sure I kept my 9 o’clock appointment with a new client. It wasn’t until the end of the meeting when I felt nauseous and had to hold on to something in order to stand up straight that I started thinking something was wrong.

For the next 48 hours I fluctuated between feeling good and bad, eventually getting to the point where I had to concentrate hard on putting one foot in front of the other to walk. When I typed, the words in my head were not the words that appeared on the page. Something was wrong. A trip to hospital was clearly overdue.

Showing classic head injury symptoms of memory loss and differing pupil sizes, I was admitted immediately and underwent MRI and CT scans, numerous neurological and physical tests, and an assessment by a social worker. It was four days before I was allowed to go home, under strict orders not to lift my children, not to work and not to stress. Easier said than done.

I am a solo business owner who is responsible for my family’s income. If I didn’t work there was no money. So no pressure then.

After a month I was able to start working one hour a day, gradually increasing my hours week by week until, by the end of July, I was working full time again.

The accident was a defining moment for me and I’m almost (almost!) grateful it happened. It made me realise life is short and I need to live it now, not some time in the vague future.

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I also realised that as a business owner I needed to set up systems so my business wasn’t reliant on me. Not working properly for three months meant everything fell in a big heap because I was the one who made it all happen. This had to change.

Here are some disaster recovery tips I learned as a business owner:

  • Income protection insurance is a very good idea. I had applied before the accident but the agency turned me down once it knew what had happened.
  • You can’t say yes to everything. The accident made me clarify what I wanted to do and who I wanted to work with, so I started weeding out clients and projects that didn’t fit with my vision.
  • I needed a system. Business operations and accounting practices can be documented as processes, which can then be handed over to someone else.
  • Delegation is my friend. I gave others the tasks I didn’t need to perform so I could concentrate on the work I was really good at.
  • Never underestimate the value of a good client. I lost one client and aggravated a few more, but the majority stayed and patiently waited so I could continue to work with them.

It may have been a hard way to learn these valuable lessons, however they have been learned and acted on, and my business offering has been refined as a result.

Now that I have more clarity around what I do and what that service is worth, I’ve been able to attract more clients and change the way I operate for both financial and professional gain.

You could say being hit on the head has been good for business.

Have you also learned the hard way that it was time to make changes in your business? We’d love to learn from your disaster recovery experiences, so please share them below.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"