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What Surviving the Ice Storm Taught Me About Business

12/31/2013 12:32 EST | Updated 03/02/2014 05:59 EST

How was your Christmas? Like others in Ontario, the ice storm caught us by surprise and we spent a very chilly few days without power and, living in the country, without water too.

And even though we knew this could happen, to be honest we weren't that prepared. We are now, I can tell you.

But as business owners, we also have some lessons to learn from those tough few days that we can use in our business lives.

1. What's the worst that can happen? An important question you need to ask yourself. Think about it and have a plan B in place. For example, we'd been talking for months about getting a generator that would minimize the impact of power outages. But while we had done some research, we hadn't acted on it and at some point in business, you have to move beyond your research and take action.

2. Ask for advice from experts on what they would do if.... Living on a farm meant that we had no water for coffee, showering, cooking and the toilets. Seasoned country folk fill up their bathtubs at the first hint of a snowstorm and potential power outages. Guess what? We will from now on.

So while we might like to think we have it all covered, no one person can be an expert in everything. Ask for input, draw on others' expertise.

3. Murphy's Law - If anything can go wrong, it will. Believe it, recognize it and be ready to adapt. We had a neighbourhood party planned on day one of the outage, and went ahead. Fortunately I had lots of cold food on hand and people were game for a party. They dressed warmly, and found beverages to warm them inside too.

Sometimes when the unexpected happens, you just have to go with the flow. Be flexible -- sometimes it actually leads you to better results.

4. Find the humour or lesson from the experience. Everyone treated the outage (at the beginning at least) as a bit of an adventure, and jokes abounded about the pioneer days. My kids were all ready to cook the 16 pound turkey on the barbecue, but fortunately power resumed on Christmas Day.

Things happen for a reason. Learn from it and keep your sense of humour as it will get you through the worst of times.

5. Ask for help. By day four I was dying for a shower. So I asked my daughter if I could come over to her place. If she hadn't been around, I am sure I would have let go my pride and asked someone else for help. Four days without washing your hair is not an attractive look, trust me.

Know when it is time to ask for help. Let go of your pride.

6. Don't take yourself too seriously. I started to joke about my appearance, as I donned my red housecoat over my clothes. I even found a red hat to match, and went to the front door in my "cold-fighting" attire to greet our unsuspecting mailman. I suspect he saw all sorts during this period.

Like lesson four, find the humour in a situation. Lighten your load.

7. It is never over, until it is over. We actually managed to successfully hold our second open house of the season, complete with heat, water and hot food. But it doesn't pay to get too complacent because no sooner had all the guests left, than the power went out. For eight hours.

Just as in business, a deal is never a deal, until it has been signed and sealed. Don't celebrate too early.

Christmas 2013 will be memorable for years to come. It meant a lot of hardship for some and certainly affected the way we celebrated the season, but we survived and have some funny stories to share in the years ahead.

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