It’s lonely at the top, even when you’re winning, but when a business owner must deal with personal issues or health crisis it can put the whole organisation at risk. Dealing with the illness or loss of a family member is an experience everyone will handle differently, and it can have a knock-on effect on profit and productivity. Caring for a loved one, especially in their final days, takes time and is mentally draining, as is dealing with the shock of a sudden bereavement and providing the necessary support for family and friends. Whether caring, dealing with loss or fighting their own health battles, a business owner should concentrate on getting the most important aspects of business right, such as looking after a few key accounts or projects, and delegate the rest to a trusted lieutenant when personal issues arise. Having the right team and procedures in place is perhaps the best way for a business owner to be ready for such a crisis. A deputy with the capability, inclination, and loyalty to take over in such a situation is a particularly valuable thing, plus finding such a person is also helpful when succession planning. Backing up the right people with the right procedures is essential.Both managers and employees need to know what happens when a company’s principle is incapacitated, the chain of command should be clear. This can be tested by taking a holiday or a self-enforced period of reduced capacity and seeing how the team performs. Mental health is one of the most important factors to consider when running a business after a shock. Taking enough time to properly process the barrage of personal issues, pressures and emotions, and seeking help when needed can be the difference between the being back in the boardroom and being stuck in a personal bedlam. Hiding in your work can be appealing to both the enthusiastic new business owner and the seasoned entrepreneur, but burying one’s head in the sand is no substitute for dealing with issues like grief and stress. If the modern world’s reduced stigma of abandoning a stoic, macho attitude doesn’t make asking for help appealing, perhaps the financial incentive of getting back to work will. As with planning for anything, there are “known knowns”, “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”. By preparing for known knowns, and ideally some known unknowns, it is possible for a business leader to mitigate the risk of unforeseen illnesses and other personal issues. When it comes to health scares, prevention is better than the cure. On top of the regular exercise and healthy diet that more of us aspire to than achieve, finding the time to go to the GP with even minor complaints can save time and money in the long term. For the time-poor business person, a number private providers offer a health “MOT”. It is possible to insure against financial losses incurred by the death or illness of key persons in an organisation. This can be useful in paying for an interim director or any other kind of professional needed, but it is very much a last resort. Preparation, delegation and recuperation are the key to a successful and timely return after a shock and experiencing personal issues. David Cliff is a specialist coach and therapistImage: Shutterstock
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