Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Dealing with Sickness and Women Entrepreneurship

Author: Dr. Cheryl Cottle 

I have found that many women entrepreneurs are resistant to talking about becoming sick. Many women seem to see sickness as something that if you do not talk about, will not happened. Many believe that if you think about it and or give it a voice, it will manifest itself as real — so it is not talked about. As a result many women prefer to remain silent about it and “knock on wood” when asked the question — do you have a plan in place should you become sick while running your business? 

Few women entrepreneurs think of having a contingency plan that deals with sickness in a proactive way — a plan that is built into their "business plan”. Many women entrepreneurs may have a marketing plan and a “succession plan” but they are also resistant to having one. More recently however, we are seeing a shift in succession planning as many professional business women after spending many years as an entrepreneur, transition into other careers. Recently, I have had a woman as a guest on my Women in Business Radio show — a professional woman in business, who have had a successful business for over 25 years, passed it on to her son as she embarked on another career, as an author. Women are therefore having a “succession plan” but are still resisting making plans in case she gets ill or disabled — either short-term or long-term. 

Research, however has shown that becoming sick or becoming disabled can happen in the life of an entrepreneur, and that it is very important to contemplate your options proactively. Research further suggests that as an entrepreneur, you should think about creating a safety net comprising of human resources, human support, and financial resources and health and medical insurance to ensure that your business does not fail in time like these. On my Women in Business Radio show, I have covered some of the many challenges that women entrepreneurs faced in our roles as an entrepreneurs and have provided tools that you can use to assist you in responding to them, or even circumventing them. You can listen to the podcast at the end of this article to learn what are some strategies that we can use. * On Monday Suzan will share her experience, and will focus on the strategies that she used to keep her business open and at the same time maintain her health and well-being. 

Research also shows that women entrepreneurs, who suffer from cancer, are able to overcome the illness and at the same time their businesses survived. Research also shows that when a woman in business is diagnosed with cancer, she has to “rethink" everything about her business from figuring out whether she should tell her clients about the cancer, how to cope with the treatments, to what happens if she does not recover. One of the biggest challenges for women who get sick while managing their business, is where to find the resources to keep their business afloat? 

There are some strategies that a woman in business can employ in this situation. One of the strategies that research shows that during such an experience, a woman in business should learn how to refocus her priorities and keep her business running through her treatment. Very often as women entrepreneurs, we run a tight ship. We are every role in our business and our management style does not support our treatment and our recovery because we micro manage every task within our business. It is suggested that we ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness to do so. You will find that you will get the support that you need. It is suggested that we delegate roles and responsibilities to individuals who are a part of our work environment — people who are there to provide you with the support that you need. Trust and having confidence in their abilities, will help you to relinquish some of the tasks that others, whom you may discover, can do the job just like you and in some cases, better.

Another thing that you may have to reconsider is changing your management style; whereby you control every aspect of your business’ operation — micro-managing all of your employees’ job tasks and business processes and operations. You will get “burn-out,” you just won’t be able to perform all these tasks; and more importantly your treatment can suffer. 

Research also shows that one should have contingencies put in place proactively, just in case you might get sick or disabled. Many entrepreneurs prefer not to think about illness, because to them just to think about it means that it will happened, so it is avoided totally in many cases. However, if you get sick, it could happen you know. What are your contingency plans? You must have a “Plan B” — a proactive solution. 

Research further shows that you should have a “safety net” for you and your family should you become sick, or disabled by what ever means. It is recommended that you should research what benefits are available to the self-employed, if you can no longer work — long-term or short-term? Remember, knowledge is power. Knowledge will also help you to make informed decisions about your health and well-being. Sickness should not be seen as the end of your dreams and passion. A contingency plan helps you to rise above your situation and it is possible that you can regain your health, and take control over your life. 

Research further shows that there are some benefits available to entrepreneurs including life insurance, disability insurance and critical illness insurance. Here is a list of things that you can do:

  1. Consider having a multi-layered approach to a self-employed benefit package that integrates a life insurance,  disability insurance and critical illness insurance — that can be upgraded and your business and your family grows. 
  2. You can also increase your retirement savings and have an extended health care benefit plan as you get older; such as dental care and prescription coverage. 
  3. Have a savings account. You should have at least three months worth of accessible cash available to cover basic living expenses for health emergencies — a tax free savings account is a good place to keep your funds for a rainy day. 
  4. Have a healthcare spending account through a benefit supplier. A Healthcare Spending Account  allows you to contribute whatever you want to the account and deduct it from your taxes tax-free. You can also look into the option of having an RRSP — this type of HAS is not tax-free. 
  5. As a self-employed individual, you can also access Employment Insurance benefits if you become sick or disabled. This however is limited to a weekly payment and it is only available for 15 weeks. To qualify for Employment Insurance benefit you must pay EI premiums for a year before you can access this benefit and you must pay the employee and employer’s premiums.

I have included a pod cast of my interview with Suzan St. Maur on Women in Business Radio that looks at how women in business should find ways to manage her business successfully in challenging times. 

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Dr Cheryl Cottle on BlogTalkRadio

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Dr Cheryl Cottle on BlogTalkRadio

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