It was the third week of August, and I was excitedly looking forward to Labor Day weekend. Suddenly I get the news that my grandfather had passed away at the age of 96. Death in a family is never a convenient situation. Within a couple of days, I made hotel arrangements and drove 200 miles north to Central Florida to spend time with family and attend the funeral. Monday morning I returned to South Florida where I work from home and decided to leave most of my luggage packed because we had made labor day travel plans to St. Augustine Beach for the following weekend. In preparation for my trip, I ran through my weekly routine of writing contracts, sending invoices, coordinating with the accountant, and running payroll. Labor Day Weekend arrives, and we check into our cottage on the beach and enjoy our time there. As quickly as the trip came, it was over, and we make the trip back to West Palm Beach, Florida.
You can imagine how busy things are after coming back from vacation and beginning a new month. I check the weather and quickly discover a powerful category five hurricane is headed directly for the entire state of Florida. Instead of jumping back into the routine, my wife and I had to prepare for hurricane Irma immediately. Everything from putting storm shutters up, to buying enough food, gas, and water for after the storm. Everyone in the area was taking Hurricane Irma very seriously and wiped the store shelves clean of any water and snacks. The realization that we were going to have to relocate to get out of the path of hurricane Irma was becoming more real as the forecast for Florida was growing grim.
For a third week, I would have to make travel plans during a busy work week. This time all of Florida was in a state of emergency. We decide to drive 900 miles north to Franklin Tennessee to get out of the path of Hurricane Irma. This allowed me to continue running the business from a safe location with power and internet. We hit the road and what should have been a 12-hour drive turned into a horrific 3-day drive. It also included two additional hotel stays that were not originally planned. We made it safely to Tennessee and were able to continue to run the business remotely. All of this was possible because we chose to live our life with margin, allowing room for the unknown.
Build margin into your schedule.
When it comes to our time, we often only think about what we have to do “today.” The problem is we cannot control what the day brings, but rather how we respond to what the day brings. It’s not normal to plan to be inconvenienced unless you’re at Jury Duty or the DMV. At the beginning of each week, look at what is on your plate and partition your day into sections. Give yourself margin, on your calendar for the unknowns. Whether it’s a delay in traffic or an unexpected introduction to a new acquaintance, when you leave room for the unknown in your day, you will find that the uncontrollable surprises will not put you behind schedule.
Bonus tip: If you’re a freelancer, always add an extra day to whatever deadline you’re setting. It’s better to deliver work before the deadline rather than after the deadline. Excuses can only take you so far.
Your budget needs an emergency fund.
I never thought I would spend the last three weeks on the road. I had to buy gas, stay in hotels and spend money on food. However, because I chose to set aside a percentage of our profits for emergencies, (in our case 20%), we were able to make those decisions without incurring any debt. This also reduced the drain on the businesses’ operating capital necessary to keep the business running smoothly.
Take the time to document, so that you can delegate.
In every business, there are different roles. The challenge most entrepreneurs run into is taking the time to delegate their responsibilities into those much-needed roles. For me, there was a time where I wore all of the hats. I used to be responsible for everything from sales, to operations, to the time spent doing the billable work. Today I’ve managed to delegate almost everything that doesn’t fit into my key results areas for the business. An additional bonus for my business is that we are a remote workforce. This allows us to work from anywhere.
When I had to take the last four weeks and spend that time on the road traveling for unexpected events, the rest of my team was able to continue working from their location. If I didn’t take the time to delegate responsibilities, it would have put me out of business. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take the time to document the knowledge that sits inside of your head and put it onto paper. Documentation allows your team can pick up where you may have to leave off.
Whether it’s your budget, your time, or your resources, always build margin into your life. You never fail planning for the unknown future. If you live your life without margin, it may put you out of business.
Our hearts and prayers go out to those who were directly affected by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean.