Dealing with death as an entrepreneur

Within the span for 3 weeks, my wife and I lost two parents. Her father passed away in the ICU due to terminal interstitial lung disease. My mother passed away a few weeks later at home due to terminal lung cancer.

This is as traumatic an experience as anyone can imagine. We also have a 1-year old that needs constant love, care, and attention. The stress all of this has placed on our entire family is simply unfathomable. My wife had to quit her job to take care of her mom and our 1-year old.

As much as anyone can imagine or prepare for the loss of a parent, when the final moments arrive, nothing, and I mean nothing, can come remotely close to explaining the deep, heartfelt pain.

Death is an enlightening event, though. It puts a lot of things you assumed to be true into perspective. Your relationships with your parents, your colleagues, your career, and of course, the relationship with your spouse, all go under the microscope. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this ordeal is that nothing is more important than family and that regret is a bitch. I regret not taking that trip to Hawaii with my father-in-law. I regret not spending more time with mom before she passed. I regret not taking the entire family out to my favorite restaurant.

As entrepreneurs, we tend to believe we’re comfortable with taking calculated risks, coping with regrets when certain decisions don’t pan out, and with growing our teams like a family. This couldn’t be further from the truth. These skills numb you as an entrepreneur and often become excuses for not spending more time with family and loved ones because there’s always something that seems to be more important than family when you’re running and growing a business.

Business decisions can be changed and hired employees, as much as you love them, can come and go but you only roll the dice once when it comes to your relationships with family and loved ones.

But if I’m here to give advice to other entrepreneurs who’re currently dealing with death in the family or have parents and loved ones who’re sick, it should be business related, no? The sad truth is that being out for family emergencies puts enormous strain on your team. Between our two parents that passed away, I spent roughly a whole month being in and out of the office. I worked in short stints from the hospital, at home, on a random couch, and from the car. I barely ate and hardly slept. I wasn’t able to take business meetings or even collaborate with the team much on what we needed to accomplish.

Through this ordeal, I realized 3 things that are essential to the survival of a business in times of an emergency:

It’s too easy to get into a “I’ll just do it myself” mentality as an entrepreneur. We’re all used to wearing multiple hats, sharing responsibilities, and taking hits for the team. But when other things take precedence, you’ll need to learn to let go and allow others an opportunity to help you like you’ve helped them.

2. Lean on your team

You built a team around your business so you can focus on growth. In emergencies, it’s more important than ever to delegate and run a team remotely. Offload things to your teammates so you have more undivided attention to take care of those that most require your help.

3. Build evergreen content

Focus some time now on building evergreen content so your business can grow on its own even if you’re away from work for long periods of time. Things such as case studies, long form research studies, social proof, general blog content, paid advertising campaigns, etc. can all play a crucial role in your evergreen content stack. This content helps to drive long tail traffic for your business.

4. Keep communicating

It’s important to stay in touch with your team even if you’re out of office dealing with an emergency. Your teammates do care about how things are going so it’s important to share any news and updates you have. This process also sets expectations about how much longer you’ll be away and make the whole planning process easier for them.

5. Remind yourself of what’s important

Building a business is hard and being an entrepreneur requires us to make sacrifices. Remind yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Is it for financial freedom? Is it pride? Is it the desire to become a millionaire? Whatever your reasons may be, having family and loved ones around to enjoy the fruits of your labor seems logical. But sacrificing what makes you whole in pursuit of something monetary does not.

I never thought I would be regretful as a loving son or son-in-law. I love my mom and my father-in-law and I’ve done my best to spend time with them and to bring joy to our family. Even so, when all is said and done, regret is all I feel. I wish I could’ve done more. Perhaps what we do as sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters may never be enough but I hope my experiences can help those of you who’re feeling the pressure of running your own business and somehow sacrificing all the wrong things.

Dealing with death as an entrepreneur

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