Publication: Flying Solo
2010 was not my finest year in business. The business almost ceased to exist after I suffered a head injury in April, but this story isn’t a ‘poor me’ scenario; it’s about how I overcame that disaster to be stronger, wiser and happier.
While asleep in the early hours of April 19, my lovely ginger cat, Stanley, knocked a metal candle holder on to my head from the bed post. I woke up suddenly, screamed at Stanley and promptly lost consciousness, waking up again a few hours later with a throbbing headache.
Being the professional I am, I took some paracetamol for the pain and made sure I kept my 9am appointment with a new client. It wasn’t until the end of the meeting when I felt nauseous and had to hold on to something to stand straight that I started thinking something was wrong.
For the next 48 hours I fluctuated from feeling good to bad, until the point I had to concentrate hard on putting one foot in front of the other to walk. Also when I typed, the words in my head were not the words on the page. Something was wrong. A trip to hospital was clearly overdue.
Showing classic head injury symptoms of memory loss and differing pupil sizes, I was admitted immediately and underwent MRI and CT scans, numerous neurological and physical tests and was assessed by a social worker. I was there for four days before allowed to go home, under strict orders not to lift my children, not to work and not to stress. Easier said than done.
I am a solo business owner who is responsible for the family’s income. If I didn’t work there was no money. No pressure.
After a month I started working one hour a day and then the next week I added time and so on until, by the end of July, I was working full time again.
That accident was a defining moment for me and I’m almost (I say almost) grateful it happened. It made me realise life is short and I need to live it now, not some time in the vague future. I also realised as a business owner I needed to set up systems so Strawberry Communications was not reliant on me. Not working properly for three months meant everything fell in a big heap because I was the one who made it all happen. This had to change.
Here is what I learnt as a business owner:
- Income protection insurance is a very good idea – I had applied before the accident but the agency turned me down once it knew what had happened
- You can’t say yes to everything – the accident made me clarify what I wanted to do and who I wanted to work with, so I started weeding out clients and projects that didn’t fit with my vision
- I needed a system – business operations and accounting practices can be documented as processes, which can then be handed over to someone else
- Delegation – I gave others the tasks I didn’t need to perform so I could concentrate on the work I was really good at
- Never underestimate the value of a good client – I lost one client and aggravated a few more, but the majority stayed and patiently waited so I could continue to work with them.
It may have been a hard way to learn these valuable lessons, however they have been learnt, acted on and my business offering refined as a result.
Since I have more clarity around what I do and what that service is worth, I’ve been able to attract more clients and change the way I operate for both financial and professional gain. You could say being hit on the head has been good for business!
Oh, and Stanley is still with us and sleeps in my in tray on occasion.