By Andrew McConnell, co-founder and CEO of Rented.
I recently had the “good fortune” to experience my first hurricane truly in the eye of the storm. Hurricane Paulette hit Bermuda in September 2020 and affected not only our island, but my perspective as well.
This isn’t the first time Bermuda has shifted the way I think. I have written elsewhere about my family’s decision to relocate to Bermuda during Covid-19, and while the majority of the experience has been about swimming in the ocean, sandy beaches and warm weather, another part has been about living through one of only 10 hurricanes to make landfall on the small island since the 1850s.
To say that the Category 2 natural disaster that we experienced was an adventure is to put it mildly. To say it was an education is also entirely true. The lessons I learned surviving this hurricane have direct and helpful application to the world of business.
Prepare for the worst.
To begin, it demonstrated the importance of preparing for the worst. With such a deadly natural force headed our way, we were lucky to have advanced warning thanks to weather forecasts. This meant that for several days before, we were able to prepare for what was to come. In business, you will rarely, if ever, receive the same sort of precise forewarning of impending disaster.
That does not, however, mean you should be any less prepared when it arrives. Few predicted the dot-com bubble bursting, the 2008 financial crisis or the Covid-19 disaster that has been 2020. However, those who maintained healthy cash reserves for a rainy day found themselves far better positioned to weather the storms when they came as compared to those who simply assumed the good times would never end.
Don’t let the worst-case scenario get you down.
Once you are prepared, the next step is to make sure you don’t let yourself get too down about the worst-case scenario. With natural disasters, as with global pandemics, there is little you can actually do to influence the ultimate outcome. Why waste time and energy worrying about what you can’t control? If you consistently prepare for the worst, the reality will most of the time be better than what you prepare for.
Why make those good times less enjoyable because of a negative mindset? The truth is that when successfully navigating the worst case, you will be far more likely to make it through to the other side if you have a realistic, but still optimistic, outlook rather than a pessimistic one.
Learn from the experts.
Next, there is no reason to recreate the wheel. Others have come before you and have experience and wisdom they are happy to share for your benefit. Learn from the experience of others. In my case, this was a Bermudian family friend who guided us through hurricane preparation and the storm fallout. In business, such wisdom can be accessed through personal mentors, books, podcasts and even articles such as this one. For almost everything that is new to you, someone else has seen it or some relatable version of it before. Their failures and their successes can provide you a shortcut to your own desired destination if only you seek them out and listen.
Adapt as needed.
My next lesson came in adaptability. For all your preparation, things will rarely play out exactly as you expect. In our case, this was in our inability to get the generator started once the power went out. It was impossible to attend calls or meetings, so I had to find new ways to be productive, including initially drafting this article with pen and paper (gasp!). The same is true in business.
My company, Rented, Inc., has spent much of the year building out a new product to bring to market in our “conference season” that was scheduled to start in September. As with so much else, Covid-19 changed what these conferences look like, and we had to change our market launch accordingly. Rather than a big bang public launch, we have iterated through private beta and a smaller-scale rollout. The result was not exactly what we envisioned in the beginning, but it is exactly what was possible and necessary given the circumstances.
Remember that patience is indeed a virtue.
My final lesson in natural disaster and business preparedness was one in patience. As the hours ticked by with no timeline for power restoration and the days went by without public transportation, I had a choice to make. I could be frustrated by the pace of things around me, or I could patiently become one with island time.
The former path was a surefire recipe for frustration and disappointment. The latter path could lead to peace, equanimity and growth. Living my normal life at a pace where the only problem with instant gratification is that it takes too long, the second path was certainly the path less traveled by me. Like Robert Frost said, however, taking it has made all the difference.
It doesn’t take a natural disaster to enact the above-mentioned strategies, but it does take a little planning and foresight on the part of every business owner to ensure they approach impending disasters with common sense, adaptability, patience and a little bit of good humor.