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Business Obligations and Handling a Loss in the Family

By Carole Bennett

My grandmother was a remarkable woman; she witnessed nearly a century of human events, including some of the most dramatic changes in human history, while always continuing to stay connected and relevant to the present. She was the first entrepreneur in our family; in later life, during a time most people are enjoying retirement, she created a small business, decorating tables and providing catering setups for special events – while managing to be a quarter-century breast cancer survivor. Somehow, she also still managed to find time for family and one of her favorite pastimes, embroidery – I still cherish the peacock embroidery she did for me.

One of her secrets to success was an innate ability to prioritize, and stay prepared for all eventualities. She embraced life and held a deep regard for the joys of living; however, she was still mindful of the certain eventuality of her passing. She took great pains to ensure everything would go smoothly when her time came, planning details with family members and care providers – nothing left to chance. Now I’m preparing to say goodbye, and in the quiet hours before, reviewing all the arrangements I’ve made for the impact of her loss on my own small business.

With today’s longer lifespans, it is more likely that a work at home woman will be a member of a “sandwich generation”, with dual responsibilities of older family members and younger. In the case of elder care, we usually have a bit more time to prepare and notify our clientele of an impending disruption. In recent weeks, I’ve been able to inform clients who I interact with regularity of my grandmother’s condition and the likelihood that there would be a need to scale business back for a period of time. I have also leveraged my social media to let everyone know that business will be scaled back and for how long.

We live in a time when our connections may be geographically far-flung; consider the impact of travel on your deliverables and any milestones on your current business plan. It’s been on my roadmap to start a recruiting campaign, to acquire a sales associate for my own business; I decided to hold off until a time when I would be better able to focus on training and strategic planning.

The tools available via modern technology can let us take our “office” anywhere; with iPhone and Android apps for Skype, e-mail connectivity and Wi-Fi, we can work from any location – but that doesn’t mean that we have to, or even should. If your business fields a large number of phone calls or e-mail, consider engaging the services of a VA (virtual assistant) for a short time; this will allow you to focus on the demands of your situation, while still maintaining a positive customer service experience for your clients.

If you’re in the unfortunate position of not having the time to prepare, refer to your business disaster plan and delegate as much as possible during the time you’ll be handling more pressing responsibilities. Above all – accept that you are not going to be on your “A” game – give yourself permission to be human.

My grandmother taught me many things; she was a fiercely independent woman, but accepted help when it was needed. As “do it all” types, we tend to refuse to accept anything as an obstruction, and don’t allow ourselves time to process. Take the time to deal with your situation, let people help when they offer, and come back when you’re ready to give your business the focus it deserves. This is the very best way you can honor the person you’ve lost, and their impact on your world.

Carole Bennett is the founder and primary voice of IndigoTea. As a professional IT consultant, Carole has provided solutions for companies as diverse as Verizon, Frito-Lay, Capital One Auto Finance, and Zales Jewelers, parlaying a unique talent for acting as a translator between the worlds of business challenges and technology solutions. After nearly two decades of experience in providing business and technology solutions in the corporate space, Carole chose to dedicate her wealth of experience towards creating outstanding results for her small business clientele. She considers her skills gained from simultaneously managing a fire performance troupe, raising a family, and working as a full-time IT consultant excellent preparation for her current career incarnation as the driving force behind IndigoTea Small Business Solutions. “Fire-breathing redhead on a mission” is not just a metaphorical description!

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