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Sickly Business Owners

If you own a home business and have an illness or disease do you have an obligation to tell your clients?

Lest I look like a total insensitive boob, let me start off by saying that I am very sympathetic when someone or someone’s child gets sick or if there is a death in the family or other crisis.   I get that life happens. It would be unreasonable to expect any business owner to truly be available 24/7 365.

One of the many benefits to owning a home business is that it affords you flexibility. Entrepreneurs generally choose to work at home either because they simply want to or often because of health concerns or caring for a loved one make it difficult to work outside the home.

Within my own team we have members who are dealing with Lupus, Cancer, Crohns, COPD, Narcolepsy, RA, Chronic Fatigue, depression, Bi-Polar, a brain tumor and Heart Disease. We have parents with special needs children and consultants taking care of aging parents. We have single parents and military spouses whose husbands are deployed overseas and we have pregnant and new moms. And those are just the challenges of which I am aware. I am certain there are plenty others that have remained private.

That said – if you own a home business and have an illness or disease do you have an obligation to tell your customers? My take on it is that no, you do not need to reveal this information providing your problems do not become your customers’ problem.   If you can carry on your business in spite of challenges, and no team members will feel ignored or unanswered and if customers receive their product in a timely manner, then your health issues is no one’s concern.

If however, you’re going to be out of pocket or if the possibility exists that you could disappear for a while due to hospitalization or treatments, then yes, I do think you have an obligation to, at the very least, mention it to those you work with. The specifics can and should remain private, but it’s the responsible thing to say something such as, “I have some health challenges. I’ve been feeling very well lately and I do not anticipate it being any problem at all.   However I wanted to let you know that sometimes I have off days or sometimes I need to be admitted to the hospital for a day or so.   If that happens I will call, email or text you.   Or I will have someone contact you to let you know what is going on.”

Me complaining about someone with health challenges would be the ultimate example of the kettle calling the pot black.   It’s not the health issue that is the issue.   It’s the lack of communication. The moment you decide to sell to one customer or take on one downline member, you’re in business. Whether you consider yourself a business owner or not, you are. Can you even imagine going to the orthodontist to pick up a retainer that you already paid for, need and are expecting – only to find the doors locked? No notice on the door, no one answering the phone, and no message left for you? No of course not.

Yet consultants and other freelance service providers see nothing wrong with accepting money for a product or service, providing a deadline when to expect delivery, and then not meeting the deadline, not communicating that life got in the way and inquiring if it would pose any imposition if the product or service were to be delivered a week later. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. And I’m not talking about a few days of no communication but weeks and sometimes months. Sometimes they even leave footprints on Twitter or Facebook, verifying that they are alive and appear to be well.  Then eventually, after you repeatedly attempt to get a status update, they report that they had a death in the family or they weren’t feeling well.   And what”¦ there was no phone, smart phone or computer anywhere around in 5 weeks? I highly doubt they were on a deserted island.   Communication is key.

Veteran Entrepreneur, Tara Burner has also experienced more than her fair share of consultants and freelancers who don’t deliver on promises made and who don’t communicate:

“As the popular saying goes, “Life happens”…but should it affect your business? No! Though sadly it seems to – especially in the WAHM community. We all have ‘things’ happen-kids get sick, we get sick or have health issues, people die, babies are born-but that doesn’t mean we don’t conduct business in a timely manner for months on end. When you’re in business, it takes work to build a client base and maintain a reputation of reliability and professionalism yet it only takes a missed deadline, unanswered emails & phone calls to destroy your reputation and your business.

There is an appropriate time for you to be ‘closed for business’ while going through things, but that doesn’t mean months should pass without conducting business and communicating with your clients. If it’s going to take that long, sell your business or close shop because people will move on and find someone else who is reliable, trustworthy and able to do the work at hand! Benjamin Franklin said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Keep that in mind when you’re making excuses when you don’t deliver to clientele.”

Tara was dead on when she said “If it’s going to take that long, sell your business or close shop because people will move on and find someone else who is reliable, trustworthy and able to do the work at hand!” Take your website down, request a leave of absence, put your emails on auto-respond that you are away but if there is an immediate need contact ____.”

If you have an active business website or if your signature line includes various ways people can contact you – email, phone, Skype, Facebook etc. then it is expected that you will respond to any or all of those platforms in a reasonable amount of time – ideally within 24 hours.

Do you have a back-up plan should you become incapacitated or are unable to fulfill your business obligations? If not, perhaps today is the day to line up a friend or co-worker to step in or at least make notifications if you are out of pocket for more than a day.

RYBLAB – Run Your Business Like a Business.

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3 Responses to Sickly Business Owners

  • I love the article (obviously) having run into more than my share of people who ‘disappear’ due to ‘life’.
    and I love this “RYBLAB – Run Your Business Like a Business.”

  • Thanks Tara. One of the biggest problems is that many business owners only consider themselves as hobbyists, so that’s how they treat their biz. Yet they advertise and promote themselves as serious biz owners. Only their walk doesn’t match their talk.

  • so true about hobbyists! You know I’ve done countless blogs and articles on Associated Content/Yahoo about this very topic!

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