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How Disaster in Business Can Change You for the Better

FILED IN: Behind-the-Scenes, M&G Happenings, Unboxing the Business

Posted By: Jamie Kutchman

If you’re not new here, you may recall how team Marigold & Grey experienced a serious building fire back in the fall of 2019, resulting in significant collateral damage to the business. We lost almost all of our inventory just ahead of the holiday season and were displaced from our studio space, ending up with a fraction of the square footage we needed to fulfill all of the commitments we had booked for the year.

While I’d never wish for a disaster like this (or any problems in business for that matter), I believe that going through this rough time has led us to become a better business, a better business owner, and a better brand.

Here’s how….

1. Disaster Shapes How You Safeguard Your Business

Sometimes there is no better motivator in life than learning the hard way. And sometimes you can't properly prepare for a disaster until you've actually had one and realize the steps you must take to protect yourself. You live and learn. Sure, it's best to prepare ahead of time but you can't always prepare for everything single thing. If you find yourself in a situation where you're not as prepared as you'd like, learn from it and allow it to motivate you to protect your business proactively moving forward. 

For example, we were pathetically under-insured for the fire. Today, you’d better believe we are properly insured, if not over-insured. If you’re burned on a contract, you update your contract. If you trust all of your employees yet experience things missing on repeat, you get cameras. If you don’t have redundancy at all positions and a pandemic strikes and people go out for Covid at the same time leaving you stranded, you put the work into creating SOPs across the entire business so anyone can do anyone’s job.

You have a computer hack and lose money and then invest in a cyber security audit to prevent this scenario from happening again. Again, ideal to have these safeguards in place ahead of time but for various reasons, you don’t always or can’t always, and must react in real time. The beauty of learning the hard way is that you react quickly and never make those mistakes again.

2. Disaster Shapes Hiring and Firing

On the day of the fire, one of my key employees had only been with us for two weeks. While her fiancé was trying to urge her to look for a new job, she instead called her mom and asked her to quickly bring her some messy gym clothes and a scrunchie and which she explains later. It was immediately evident that her work ethic and ability to solve problems, even in stressful conditions, was just the one you want in your corner when facing problems of any size. She is still with M&G and was undoubtedly one of the key reasons the business survived and thrived after such an unfortunate incident.

Verdict: a good fit.

On the flip side, we had an employee who was supposed to be inventorying the damaged inventory so I could file a proper insurance claim and the spreadsheet wasn’t progressing. We came to find out she was spending more time texting her new boyfriend than itemizing this highly crucial document. Verdict: not a good fit.

Fast forward to now and when making hiring decisions, I evaluate candidates based on how well I think they are at solving problems, especially unexpected ones, and whether or not they have what it takes to dig deep when needed. If there’s any doubt in my mind, I don’t hire. 

 3. Disaster Shapes How You Motivate

When things go wrong in business, you have to immediately mobilize and triage whatever the issue is. You have to get serious and dig in. But you also have to be mindful of your team’s mental health and how they are coping with the stress of the situation. I recall one team huddle where we were all sitting on upside-down trash cans because all of our furniture was ruined and in the dumpster and instead of jumping right into the disaster recovery details, I had everyone stop and name one thing that went well the following day that didn’t have to.

We had way more to list than we realized which led to gratitude, which led to positivity, which led to momentum and action, which led to progress. In a crisis, you cannot ignore the mental state of each of your team members. You as the owner may be fine but that doesn’t mean everyone else is. And you as the owner may not be fine and everyone else might be, but you still are responsible for frequent check-ins. You’re all in it together everyone must feel supported.

4. Disaster Reaffirms Your Core Values

As hectic as things can get during times of change or increased volume, make time for listening to your team, most especially the challenges they’re having. As busy as you are as the CEO and as many things as you have on your plate (trust me, I know!), figure out a way to address their concerns as best you can.

Progress of any amount will be noticed and will let the team know that you care about their overall experience working with you. When these instances arise, use these as opportunities when communicating internally and externally to remind people that you’re living out these values. It really does strengthen your brand.

Let's make this a conversation. Leave me a comment to let me know what you think.

When a crisis strikes in your business, how do you react?

What tactics do you have for problem-solving and keeping your team on stable ground?

Images: Lissa Ryan Photography
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