The Midwest has been facing a historic winter storm with some of the coldest temperatures and wind chills in decades. The Governor declared Michigan a State of Emergency, while schools, businesses and even the postal service were shut down. Many teams like mine hunkered in to work remotely.
In a completely unplanned, yet perfectly timed trip, my husband Mike and I navigated the chaos with our separate business teams from Florida.
As the founder of a PR and marketing agency that is used to video calls and remote work with clients around the country, my team had it made. But, as the founder and CEO of Michigan's only local grocery delivery service, Doorganics, Mike had to navigate the company's biggest challenge from a hotel room across the country.
Here are the top three takeaways we experienced in overcoming roadblocks, that can be applied to any business facing a major challenge.
1. Prepare for the unexpected.
In more than eight years in business, Doorganics had not missed a delivery day.
Now, with pre-purchased, perishable inventory sitting in the warehouse and thousands of customers counting on it being delivered (since many grocery stores were closed), we were facing the worst storm in recent history.
While there were some things we could not have been prepared for (like how to navigate quickly changing, extreme weather conditions), there were other aspects we were grateful to have had spent time planning in advance- like technology.
A crisis is not the time to figure out your email or routing software to send customers an urgent update, or to shop video conferencing software, or to hunt down contacts at local towing companies (or whoever your source of emergency help would be).
When you do run into unexpected issues and 'figure it out' on the fly (as entrepreneurs do), be sure to document the solution and process so you have it the next time is arises.
2. Your best employees will rise to the occasion.
When the going gets tough, chances are, some people are going to let you down. You may get some irrational customers or employees who drop the ball.
But, don't let it overshadow the positives that come from challenging times, like people stepping into their leadership, proactively tackling issues, and helping guide the ship.
When one of our delivery vans got stuck in a snowbank and another wouldn't start, we had team members and even friends step up to help get us back on track.
We had our share of difficulties, and it would have been easy to dwell on the negative when 'it' hits the fan. Instead, we pointed our energy and focus on the good.
Remember, cream rises to the top, and it's never more apparent than when facing challenges head-on.
3. Create systems -- and trust them.
While it certainly didn't feel like it at the time, being stuck in a hotel room 1400 miles away during the most challenging week of business proved to be beneficial.
First, it forced Mike to leverage his leadership skills from afar while also trusting and empowering everyone on his team to do the same.
Had he been at the office that day, he likely would have jumped in to tackle many issues himself, hindering the growth of his team and diverting from the company's playbook.
Just because you can do it all, doesn't mean you should.
Second, It also tested the companies' systems and processes, which identified some weak spots, allowing the team to address them and set stronger systems in place for future situations.
As the weather radar promises to let up in the coming weeks, we realize there is nothing quite like an epic Michigan winter storm and perfectly timed vacation to put your team, systems, and entrepreneurial stamina to the test.