In the Trenches: A Sudden Absence

BrettSnyder by Brett Snyder on November 13, 2013
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A couple of Sundays ago, I was awakened by a phone call. It was my father, telling me that my 90-year-old grandfather had died. Although it’s relatively easy for me to plan time off work in advance, a family emergency presents a challenge. How would I manage my sudden absence from the business?

When a tragedy strikes, some people immediately focus on coping with what’s happened. I, however, like to distract myself from crises by doing work, particularly when it comes to grieving. For me, taking breaks from my emotions now and then can be really helpful.  It’s stressful to grieve, and shifting into a different gear gives me a break. Besides, I didn’t know what else to do with myself. My grandfather was the only relative who lived nearby, so the rest of my family wouldn’t arrive in Southern California until Monday or Tuesday. Rather than sitting around feeling helpless, I logged on.

Instead of cranking through tasks I knew needed to get done, however, I went into triage mode: I looked for things that I could put off, knowing that the next few days would be really trying. I reached out to key clients, explained my situation, and asked if it would be OK to delay a little. (Wondering why I didn’t write this column last week? Now you know.) Of course, I also told my employees that I’d be out a lot more than I’d be in for a few days. After that, I isolated the work that couldn’t wait and started plowing through it, trying to clear my to-do list before the week began.

My employees were great, and they took everything in stride. I answered the few questions they had when I could, and I stayed up late to respond to emails. By the end of the week, I was drained on many levels. So I took time to relax and be with friends to help me recharge. Then, on Sunday, I dove into my pile of emails and started clearing out my inbox, so I’d be ready to start a new week.

How do you keep your small-business going when a personal emergency strikes? Share your experience in the Comments section below.

BrettSnyder

Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.

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