This time is not the first time round this familiar story of being ill and having my own business to run. In 2018 i was diagnosed with breast cancer and whilst i narrowly escape chemotherapy i was out of action with my business for the most part of 6 months.
Cut to 2021 and my cancer has returned to say hello, this time to my bones. I had been feeling sore with back pain for many months. I tried yoga, swimming physio, acupuncture, but it persisted. So after some x-rays it quickly became apparent that the cancer was in my bones. Luckily not yet spread to my organs.
Throughout this time i had no choice but to keep my business going. As it is mainly online, it would seem weird to close the online shop. As much as i wanted to escape from my daily jobs with keeping Goodordering ticking over, i couldn't think of a good enough reason to do something so dramatic.
Instead i decided to break down exactly what about running Goodordering was making me anxious or things i couldn't do and ask for help on those specific things. Things like responding to irate customers or worry about not getting enough sales through lack of marketing were things that i worried about not being able to do if i had days on end of not doing any work.
So here, as i sit on the hospital room sofa, i thought i would compile a list of activities and how i have handled them. It's sort of like the "if i got hit by a bus tomorrow, how would the business keep running" list. A group of processes, i guess that could be applicable to anyone who has a busineess who might want to or need to step away for periods at a time. If i were one of those people who think of the glass always half full rather than half empty (maybe i am) then this would also be the same list that might allow me to go on a long holiday or spend lots of time with my kids. It just so happens that it has come about through less chirpy circumstances.
These are my lessons:
THEY ARE ONLY BAGS
No matter how irate a customer is, or how lost a package has got in the mail or how broken a zip is, i have to constantly remind myself that they are only bags. Yes, they are pretty cool bags but its not going to kill anyone to have to wait a few days for a reply and asking customers for their understanding can often end positively.
USE MY OUT OF OFFICE
Thank god for google mail. I've learnt a lot about the fine art of communication. What is the best way to get a message out to the most people quickly - it could be email, it could be an instagram post or it could be a message on my website. Use the tools around to communicate what is going on to customers which will save time replying to individual messages.
FULFILMENT WAREHOUSE BEST IDEA EVER
Automating processes in general helps with being out of the office for whatever reason. But since i have been ill, my amazing fulfilment company has taken on more work. It made sense as they are familiar with my products and business and we are already working together. In this case i asked them whether they could take on some more logistical customer service queries and they said yes straight away. This would not have happened if i hadn't cultivated such a positive relationship with them over the last 8 years of working together.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTINGENCY PLANNING
It seems like an awfully grown up thing to do, but we always hear about the money we should put away for a "rainy day" or the plans we should have if we don't reach sales targets etc. But being ill has really proven the importance of both - having spare money on hand and also having some kind of backup plan for if you don't sell as much as you think you will. I'm not the best at this, and to be frank, i don't have a contingency plan as such. But i do have some money the bank and enough stock to keep selling which was reassuring when i fell ill.
ASK FOR HELP FROM YOUR NETWORK
Photos, posts and content in general are key for fuelling your social media. If i can get some fresh photos from time to time from other people it keeps the pot simmering. Asking friends who have my bags or photographer friends to create imagery has been a god send when ill.
MAINTAIN GOOD RELATIONSHIPS WITH SUPPLIERS AND CUSTOMERS
When the shit hits the fan you really know who your friends are same with running a business. When you have spent time cultivating positive relationships with suppliers and customers you can call of them for their help when you need it most.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA HACKS
Apps like best-hastags.com and social media scheduling apps are amazing for minimising the amount of time you need to spend on social media whilst maximising its impact. I guess all hacks and automations are like this at their heart. Read more about hacks and automations i have in place HERE on this BLOG POST. It includes everything from syncing the back end of different software programs to making going to the post office quicker and easier.
I AM THE CAPTAIN OF MY SHIP
The first time i fell ill in 2018 i shitted myself because i was not employed by a big company who could simply pay my sick leave, leaving me to get better in peace and quiet. Prior to starting Goodordering i did have this safety net, so when it was gone and i fell ill, i completely panicked. However, now in 2021 in my second round of cancer, it has been helpful to remember the reasons why i originally wanted to have my own business in the first place.
Now, i have learnt that being the captain of my ship (Goodordering) means that i can steer it where i want. When you get sick you inevitably think more deeply about your life and life in general and whatever priorities of wealth and fame you did have before go out the window and are replaced with visions of friends, family, having more time and simply having a better quality of life. This means i can change the priorities of the business too. For example, making the bags more sustainable, supporting charities, or designing bags for people with special requirements, i'm the boss! It might not be a huge company but its all mine !! Being ill and having my own business, in summary has made me realise that i can align my business to my changing values. This has been hugely satisfying,
HEALTH IS THE NEW WEALTH
This would seem pretty obvious to all you modern thinking people out there, but this fact has really been hammered home over the last few months for me. Don't get me wrong i still want to make Goodordering profitable and and successful, but the balance has to be right. One shouldn't run themselves ragged working all night or stressing about things. These days i set sales targets and aim for them to push myself but i don't beat myself up if i don't meet them and i would prioritise going for a swim over going for a networking meeting for example.