When the lights went out Monday night, I knew it was going to be bad, and so did the 150 neighbors huddled around me here in the town shelter; but we didn’t know how bad. I know I’ll look back on all this one day and laugh, but probably not anytime before the year 2025. To kill time, and lighten the mood, we play “Who do you want to play you in the movie?” and that helps, but not much.
My home was near the “epicenter” for Hurricane Sandra. (I call by her full name… after all, I’m a parent and I’m mad at her.) Thanks to Sandra both my business and my home have been without electric, heat, phone and Internet for seven days. For me, and thousands of other businesses, services may have come to a halt, but business has not.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Be prepared for anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I had set up the whole family in the basement to sleep, had fueled up on food, and gas and made sure the generator was working before the hurricane arrived. We were prepared and rocking—but not for long. As prepared as we were, the outages lasted more than a week and we ran out of everything, gas, food, heat, cell charges, and, as embarrassing as it is to admit, beer. It was off to the shelter for us.
Know all your options. I made sure I knew how to get into the town shelter if disaster struck. Good thing, because I have been running my business from the shelter for the last week and probably will be for another week.
One Cloud taketh away, but another Cloud saved my butt. I have all my data on the Cloud in Google Drive. With Internet access, I can get to it anywhere. It’s great for mobility, disasters and probably alien invasions. If Google crashes and loses my stuff they’ve most likely lost everyone’s stuff so everyone’s screwed and it won’t matter anyway.
Look Ma! No Internet required. I use Google Drive’s Sync feature to keep a copy of all my data on my local drive, too. If the Internet goes down (And, guess what? It did.) I can still get my data, still work, and still tend to e-mail. With a nifty Chrome app called Gmail Offline, I always have Gmail running, and it always syncs. During those long noisy nights of coughing, hacking, crying, gassy neighbors laying all around me, I was still able to work on my 100,000 plus e-mails that I hadn’t responded to yet. When the net came up, Sync sent out all the e-mails.
Wise choice, Grasshopper. Cloud your phone system. too. I use the Grasshopper virtual phone system. Even when our office phones went down, the phones auto-routed to my cell (and my colleagues cells) and our customers and prospects were able to get hold of us without posting nary a “Have you seen this Geek?” poster anywhere.
Keep a lid on it. It is amazing how fast shelters run out of basic supplies like paper cups. Have a bottle with a lid that you can refill. I have about six people at my worktable right now, and everyone has a laptop and a phone, and six cups of coffee. My bottle and my coffee mug have caps and even though they’ve been knocked over twice in the last hour, no spills.
Two power strips and one extension cord. Let’s see, 150 people, each with an iPhone, Kindle and laptop, one shelter with twenty outlets with two ports each. You do the math. Use one power strip to expand the available ports at any location; most people will be thrilled to have the extra-donated outlets. Then you can plug your extension cord in that first strip, run it to where you are sitting and then plug the second power strip there for your three outlets.
USB LED light. I got one of these things for nighttime reading, but it has come in handy during my stay at the shelter—they run the facility on half-lights because the shelter itself is on generators. It is hard to see the keyboard, as it gets dark…until I fire up my LED light. All is good.
Pack a backpack. I don’t lie on my cot and cry all day (OK, maybe a little). I get out and about and when I do, I use my handy dandy backpack. Since there is a fuel shortage, walking is better than driving—and during the first few days the roads were impassible anyway. A backpack beats a rollie-bag any day and it looks cooler, too.
I hope you never have to use these tips, but be prepared in case you do. It’s the difference between doing business and losing business. Oh, and by the way, I want to play me in the movie.
Mike Michalowicz is CEO of Provendus Group, a growth consulting firm that help companies who have plateaued to start growing quickly again. Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, as well as a popular blog for entrepreneurs.
Photo: Getty Images