Survive a Tornado

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, my family and I had to huddle in our North Carolina basement and pray that a tornado didn’t hit our house.

It all started after I returned from a Charleston work trip. It was 90 degrees when I left the coast and headed inland. It started to become overcast and it was cooling into the 80’s by the time the sun went down — and I arrived home. My wife and I put the kids to bed and (since I was tired from the 5 hour drive) we decided to go to bed early at 10pm.

All evening the weather people had preempted the regular programming. Even Survivor (second to last episode!) didn’t air in our area as the “experts” stood in front of the map green screen, almost with delight, showing us how terrible the atmospheric conditions were.

When I was just drifting off, about 10:25 I think, the thunder in the distance moved much closer. Rain started, then the wind. A voice inside of me (or was it next to me) told me to turn the TV on “just to see what’s going on”.

I flipped the TV on and the weather person was zoomed in on the part of the city that we live. She pointed to the red and green squares that show how the air was moving away and moving towards us. All in less than a quarter mile. In the upper atmosphere, the wind was blowing close to 90 miles an hour. In her constant drone of talk, I totally woke up when she said, “Anyone living in this area, should seek cover immediately”. On the screen, it even had the road that we live on, written next to a squiggly line that indicated the road behind our house.

As I was waking the kids, we got a call from friends warning us that we should turn the TV on. We ended up in the basement, huddled under a blanket. I started to remember that I wanted to get a weather radio (in case that the power went off during a storm) and we remembered that we have packed all the candles (since we’re moving in 2 weeks). Then as the TV said that our area was experiencing many power outages, our power flickered off. I realized it was too late to plan ahead.

Fortunately, the power came back on and we were told that just a couple miles away an F3 Tornado touched down. Later, we found out that houses were demolished and trees scattered everywhere. And it was headed toward us. It pulled up into the clouds again and proceeded over us, bypassing our part of the city, before touching down on the eastern side. Toppling trucks, killing a man in a pickup truck that was toppled, smashing dozens of houses and businesses. Planes collided on the ground at the airport. It was a mess.

As I thought about this, while running at the gym this morning, it occurred to me how it feels like we have another tornado lurking above us. News shows are practically being taken over by talk of the “coming economic disaster”. Seemingly with delight, they revel in how smart they are that they see all the indicators. An economic tornado.

I guess it’s now (before the actual storm — if there’s going to be one) is the time that we need to make sure we’re prepared. This is what I’m thinking we should do:

1. Stop Spending. But start Investing. We need to make sure we’re not spending cash flow on anything that doesn’t earn our company money. Good marketing in an investment! While everyone else is stopping their advertising, YOU should be investing in marketing. It WILL pay off.

2. Listen to the indicators and know when to move. Perhaps it’s time to look at areas of your company that aren’t profitable and cut them loose. Now is not the time to do a bunch of risky things. Watch your profit and loss statements. Track. Calculate. React.

3. Weather the storm. If you’re wise, you can get through this economic slow down. I believe that in order for Capitalism to work, there has to be cycles like these. If not, EVERYONE will have a business. These times allow the field to be cleared for the stronger companies. You can be one of them. Follow good rules of branding. Consistency. Benefits. Targeting.

And when the storm was over, and our family headed back up to bed, I whispered a prayer of Thanksgiving. Because God kept us safe. Once you make the right decisions in your company, by God’s grace, you’ll survive.

Oh, and today I bought a battery operated, public alert atomic clock radio. Top of the line. Just in case.

Anyone else with storm stories? In business… or personally!

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