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In the Blink of an Eye – Preparing for the Unexpected

Yesterday started off as planned.  Late in the day, I was faced with a very unexpected turn of events.  As I quickly responded to a crisis, I wasn’t thinking of fodder for a new blog post.  But, those of you who know me, know that nothing is ever wasted — the good stuff and the bad.  As I was traveling today and began to review the events of the last 24 hours, I realized what lessons I could pass on.  So, here’s my story…

My little grandsons, ages 3 and 5, came to visit, sans parents, for a week.  They live in FL and are preparing for a move to Texas, so this trip accomplished two things – 1) It gave me a lot of time for hugs and kisses before the big move, and 2) It gave their parents time to clean out the house and pack.  We have 3 adults living in my house, (me, hubby, and my daughter, Melissa) so we had it all mapped out — we would tag-team it with regard to all the responsibilities of taking care of the kids.  (And they’re a LOT of work, in case you don’t know this, or don’t remember!) We fed them, played in the pool, fed them again, watched them ride scooters, put them down for a 2-hour nap time (or at least quiet time), we watched their favorite DVDs, we played again in the pool, we fed them again…and on it went until they dropped into a dead sleep at 9pm, when I came back into my office to work until at least midnight.

Actually, things were rocking along pretty well for 5 days until yesterday.  I had just propped them up on lots of pillows to watch Lion King.  I turned my back  for about 60 seconds, and I heard the crash before I heard the scream. Seems that the boys had started a shoving match and Drew lost.   I was there in two seconds and it looked like the scene of an axe murder.  Drew’s face had hit the edge of an end-table and blood was pouring from his mouth.  I’m fairly low-key in a crisis and I usually do pretty well.  I grabbed Drew, ran for the bathroom, got a towel and spent the next few minutes just trying to stop the bleeding so I could assess the damage.  Teeth were still intact, although a little loose.  No deep wounds.  After a couple phone calls, I figured out that emergency medical care wasn’t going to be easy because I’m not the parent…and I had no written permission giving me authorization to act on their behalf.  We just decided to deal with it and we got through the night with some ice packs and kiddie ibuprofen.

Well!  When we got up this morning, I hate to say it, but Drew looked like a chimpanzee.  His face was turning black and blue, and his upper lip was so swollen he could hardly talk.  The inside of his mouth was a mess.  So, I called his dad (my son) and said I thought he should make an appointment with a pediatric dentist and I’d meet him halfway between Myrtle Beach and Jacksonville.  So I spent 8 hours on the road today.  It was a very lonely trip back home, I must say.  In just under a week, I’d gotten used to their lively antics and constant conversation.

As this crazy day ended, and I drove home in the quiet, I thought about what lessons may be derived from this.  After all, no matter how well we have our lives, our businesses and our schedules mapped out — stuff happens!  Here’s what I came up with:

1.  Take care of the emergent first.  (Stop the bleeding)  If life throws you a curve ball, or if something in your business goes terribly awry, stop the bleeding or put out the fire, however you want to look at it.  Give no thought to anything else at that moment. My dad used to say, “Put the fire out, then straighten the pictures on the wall.”

2.  Carefully assess the problem, the damages or potential threat of damage, and come up quickly with a good game plan.  You can change it if you need to, but at least get moving.

3.  Have your legal ducks in a row, and know who to call for counsel.  This might be just knowing who to call if you need an attorney or a tax planner or financial consultant.  Have a close group of trusted friends who will tell you the truth if you need an opinion.  I should have had the paperwork giving me the right to get medical treatment for my grandchildren, and I should have had their health insurance info with me.  I had neither. I did have friends in the medical field that I called for advice.

4.  This is a long shot, but do we have a written SOP (Standard Operations Manual) in place for at least the most commonly executed tasks that would keep our businesses rocking along in case something were to put us out of commission, even briefly?  I had to face this in 1998 when I was suddenly taken out of my telecommunications business (I’m CEO)  for open heart surgery.  It was a mess because I was unprepared and  I thought I was invincible.  I spent part of those next weeks of recovery time working on that manual. Come to think of it, it probably needs updating.

So there you go…that’s been my day!  I’m thinking tomorrow will be very different; at least I’m planning for it to be.