“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” -John Lennon

Sometimes we talk about running an online business (or any business for that matter) as if it happens in a perfect world. But the reality of it all is that we are all humans dealing with other humans and sometimes life throws people on either side of a transaction into a tailspin. Life come crashing in and can effect all aspects of our life within any warning.

While this is always important to remember when dealing with your customers, let’s take a look at specifically how it effects you, as a seller. You’re running your business when suddenly something external throws everything in a tail spin, be it a positive (say, an opportunity to drop everything and move into your dream house) or a negative (illness, family issues, etc). What can you do to avoid letting life get in the way of running your business?

  1. Prioritize. Your time is needed elsewhere. What are the single most important tasks you need to still be doing to keep your business running? If there are things that can wait, don’t be afraid to put them on the back burner until things get back to normal. 
  2. Trust in your customer’s human compassion. I know some people expect the worst of people at all times but the majority are good people. You don’t have to dive TMI into the drama but sometimes an honest, heartfelt heads up to your customers that you’re going through something and doing your best to get everything out on time but there may be delays can make all the difference. As long as you aren’t whining or making a ton of excuses, most people will be completely understanding. You don’t have to go into any details, just a simple general message and an appreciation for their understanding at this time is usually enough. And if they are jerks about it? Well, then either make sure theirs is the one item you do ship or just refund and move on.
  3. Delegate. Us bosses tend to be control freaks, it’s how we managed to start our own companies out of nothing in the first place. If there is ever a time to start handing off responsibilities, now is the time. Don’t have employees? Contact a temp agency or hire a friend or family member needing some part time work. This could be an ideal opportunity for you to ease yourself into delegation so, once you are back to a full work load, you can use your time in other areas.
  4. Give yourself permission to take a break. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our day to day it can be so easy to lose sight of what’s really important. When I’m in crisis and I realize I’ve forgotten to ship an item out, my husband always says in a Jamaican accent, “Let dem wait.” Sometimes it’s OK if an item ships 24 hours late. Maybe now is not the best time to list those 200 auctions, maybe you could do it in a few weeks, hmm? Would it really be the end of the world if that website launch happened next month instead?

I know this is something we’ve all dealt with at some point or another. If you feel comfortable sharing how you dealt with running your business while having a personal crisis, I’d know I’d appreciate it if you’d share below.