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Managing Your Business Through Uncertain Times

Uncertainty.

It’s a word that sends shivers down the back of any business owners. We like to plan, strategize and prepare for our next successful move. We don’t mind taking big risks. That’s what separates us from those who only dream of being a business owner. But we don’t walk into a new business venture blind. We make plans.

Yet, we are living in very uncertain times. Regardless of your politics, the past year has been rough. We’re facing huge uncertainty on many fronts, including regulations, taxes, health care, and changing climates.

These can all impact our business in huge ways. Ways we can’t even imagine. We don’t know what’s going to happen next, but you don’t have to wait for something major to happen. You can start planning now for the next what if.

Get Covered

Here’re a few of the various emergencies my business has faced over the past 20 years:

  • Our pipes burst in the middle of the weekend and flooded our entire business
  • We had a major ice storm that left our area without power for about a month (no power = no revenue)
  • We had an unexpected medical emergency and my husband couldn’t work for about 6 months

Having the right insurance is one of the only reasons we’ve survived this long. I can’t advise you on what to get, but there are credible insurance agents who can assess your unique business to see exactly what kind of coverage you need.

This is the first step towards protecting yourself from an uncertain future. If you don’t do anything else today, please call an insurance agent and at least have a conversation. They may be able to see holes in your coverage and that may be the difference that keeps you in business.

Keep Your Health Care, But Be Ready for Changes

This is the issue that keeps me up at night.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, may or may not be around much longer. Again, regardless of your political opinion, this has direct implications for our businesses.

Here’s how one insurance expert explains his thoughts about the ACA and pre-existing conditions:

“The ACA eliminated health questions and pre-existing condition limitations, which are valid but unpopular insurance company controls to measure risk. Instead, the ACA made coverage available during open enrollment periods for anyone, regardless of health risk.

The loss of these controls is a primary reason rates have increased so dramatically. Under the Republican Obamacare replacement plan, we probably won’t go back to health underwriting, but it is important to recognize the financial impact of this change.”

Whether you will be covered or not is a major issue for your business. Remember, being prepared for an emergency is one of your top priorities and keeping health care coverage is essential. And unless you can self-finance any medical crisis, this could have huge implications for your business.

If you have a pre-existing condition (for example, any injury, illness, or disease, whether physical, medical, or mental) than the amount you pay for health care may increase if you get put in a high-risk pool. This is just one of many implications health care has on your business. There are also tax issues, penalties and minimum employee coverage to consider.

Keep your existing coverage but be prepared for changes. Maybe you’ll pay less or maybe you’ll pay a lot more. And maybe, just maybe, there won’t be any changes at all. Regardless of what happens next, now is not the time to drop your existing coverage even if you believe it won’t be there next month.

Create an Emergency Contingency Plan

In Surviving Your First Business Crisis, I explained that every business will face a crisis. You have no idea what it may be, but every single business owner on the planet will face a major crisis that could end their business. That’s the very nature of owning a business.

“Both your personal and business situations are completely unique. No one knows what you need better than you. Your first business crisis could be anything and you can’t plan a contingency plan for every situation. But you can create a plan that would help guide you through the first steps of surviving whatever life throws your way …”

I don’t know if the next crisis will be financial, environmental or personal. And the next crisis will come out of nowhere and hit you in the gut. You can certainly wing it and maybe you’ll get lucky. But creating a plan will help you take those crucial first steps towards surviving whatever sucky
thing life is going to throw your way.

Create a notebook or a Google Doc that you can share with a trustworthy employee, partner or friend. Add emergency contacts, where you keep your insurance papers, important accounts (not the numbers, just basic information unless it’s kept in a secure location), and any other information that you would need in a crisis. Tailor everything to your specific business and make sure to keep it updated.

Cut Back, Streamline and Start Saving

Money can solve a lot of problems.

And while money can’t solve everything, it certainly helps. That’s why now is the time to cut back on extra expenses, streamline everything you can and start saving (if you haven’t already). My business was extremely lucky to survive the recession and we only did that because I cut our expenses to the bone.

Uncertainty comes in many forms. Maybe it’s an economic downturn that impacts the entire country. Or maybe it’s a failed product launch and you almost lose everything. Or maybe it’s a new law or regulation that turns the way you do business upside down.

Anything can happen. That’s why uncertainty is so scary.

It’s sad or maybe inevitable that many things come down to money. When the next crisis happens (and it will), having enough money to survive will alleviate a lot of stress. I know it’s not easy to think about, but you’ll be thankful you don’t have to worry where your next meal is coming from.

Be a Business Boyscout

The Scout’s motto is Be Prepared.

That’s the mindset that you need to survive whatever uncertainty happens next. It may be something that impacts you personally or maybe some new technology changes your entire industry. It could be a natural disaster that tears your community apart or a change in regulations that cuts your profit margin in half.

We simply don’t know. The only way for you to successfully manage your business through any uncertain times is to be prepared. It’s tough and stressful to think about facing an emergency situation. But suck it up and do it anyway. Plan for every disaster that you can. Think about troubling world events and how it can impact your business. Decide exactly what steps you would take in an emergency.

It may be the only reason your business survives whatever happens next.


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Liesha's a freelancer by day and Kyokushin Black Belt by night. She's the author of Killing Rapunzel: Learning How to Save Yourself Through Determination, Grit, and Self-Employment (her mother hates the title - but it's a metaphor mom!). She talks freelancing adventures at Microbusiness Essentials and grassroots movements at Kat Tales http://microbusinessessentials.com

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