5 Business Lessons Learned After 12 Weeks on My Back


When my spinal surgeon explained that I should expect a minimum of 12 weeks recovery and would spend a lot of that time on bed rest, I had visions of lounging around in bed, propped up on pillows, chatting on the phone and getting a lot of work done without the typical office distractions.

The reality was that I slept 14 to 18 hours a day for weeks, was muddle-minded from pain and medication, and when I was finally able to get some work done, I quickly became exhausted and discouraged. And while I am certainly getting back to “normal,” spending the last few months in bed, flat on my back, and largely disconnected from the office, has taught me a few things about business and life. 

1. everyone needs a contingency plan

As frightening as it is to consider, things can happen unexpectedly that take you out of the game. If no one can step in and manage key aspects of your business, things can go really wrong, really quickly. Several months in the hospital after an accident or unexpected health issue and you may find yourself out of business, homeless, and your entire life repossessed. 

Create a personal and professional contingency plan:

  • Who can sign payroll checks or pay vendors or services if you are unable?

  • How will contracts and clients be managed if you are incapacitated?

  • If you manage the social media, IT, or clients relations for your business, who will have the passwords and instructions to take on the roles in your absence?

  • Consider creating auto pay for rent/mortgage, utilities, and bills.

If you are a business owner, make certain that you have all passwords, access codes, and instructions for any accounts that your employees manage for your business.  If the IT person, social media manager, or payroll person takes ill or leaves unexpectedly, you may have a difficult time regaining access of your accounts.


2. beware of over promising and under delivering

I truly believed that I would be right as rain within a few days of surgery. Thankfully, I planned on spending the 12 weeks recovery working on personal projects, so the only person who was disappointed with my incapacity, was myself. However, I could have just as easily promised clients that I would be back to work right after surgery, potentially damaging my relationship with those clients if they relied on access to me personally. 

If you are going to be unavailable, make certain that there is someone who will be able to help your clients, who is up to speed with their contracts, needs, and goals. Also, be honest with clients. If they know that you are going to be away for a while, let them know to whom they can reach out in your absence.


3.  understand that micromanaging is faux control

Like many, I built my business from scratch and operated on my own for many years. I hate to admit that sometimes this has resulted in me being a micromanager. It isn’t that I don’t trust those that work for me. After learning the hard way, I strive to find the very best people and work hard to nurture a positive working relationship. My team is terrific! But I still struggle to give up complete control. Of course, nothing makes a micromanager loosen the reigns quite like being turned into a bed ridden zombie for weeks.

If you surround yourself with great people, create clear goals, establish accountability, and then let people do their jobs, you create happy, productive employees which frees you up to develop your business. Micromanaging wastes your time, alienates your staff, and offers only the illusion of control.  


4. figure out what is necessary and let the rest go

There is nothing like being stuck in bed, flat on your back, for figuring out what you need to accomplish in order to maintain business and what you can cut out.  In a recent US State of Enterprise Work Report, it was estimated that the average worker spends only 39% of their workday on work. The rest? Non-business emails, status reports for management, trying to look busy, and useless meetings. In fact, one of the most common complaints voiced by employees at all levels is the weight of too many useless meetings, better handled with a quick email. Yet annually, productivity falls and time wasting, pseudo-business activities increase.

Many business owners find that a quarterly or annual review of their business mission statement helps them to streamline, realign, and stop time wasting activities. Others create periodical reviews of their brand and eliminate activities that don’t directly connect to that branding. But no matter the method, figuring out what you need to accomplish and how best to be accountable, while minimizing the summarizing, busy-working, and useless meetings will help your business with efficiency, client retention, and employee satisfaction.


5. if it doesn’t bring you joy, figure out how to change it or how to end it

Surgery, especially significant surgery, makes a person contemplate death. What happens if I don’t wake up? Who will take care of my children? What will happen to the people who depend on me? What will be my legacy? It also makes you think about how you have spent your time and reflect on the things that have brought you joy, and those that haven’t.

No matter how much you may love your business, there are probably tasks that aren’t your favorite. I love all of the creative stuff, client interaction, and production. Paperwork? Not so much. So, I make certain that I have a great team that enjoys the bookkeeping and paperwork side of things. But frankly, if upon reflection, the stuff that I didn’t enjoy outweighed the tasks that I did, I would have to start thinking about changes that I could make to my business that would result in more personal satisfaction.  Or I would have to figure out how to move myself into a business or industry that provided more joy.


Alexandrea Merrell