How I outran Hurricane Irma and still kept my business running without missing a beat.

We agonized over the decision for several days. Should we stay? Should we evacuate? Where will we go? As the days progressed, The Weather Channel played continuously in the background. Irma was described as a “monster” and “unprecedented.” It was going to engulf the entire state of Florida starting at the keys and drive northward wreaking havoc throughout the state. The uncertainty of it all made me feel as though I was going to throw up at any minute. I began staging water, food and important papers for a hasty exit.

Mandatory evacuations in my area began Thursday afternoon. Although I live in Zone D and unlikely to flood, at 2pm on Thursday afternoon, my husband said, “We’re leaving.” One hour and 40 minutes later we backed out of our driveway not knowing if we would ever see our home again. We began a daunting journey that took us over 2,800 miles as we ran from the storm and headed to Michigan.

There were long hours in the car with an elderly dog and the everlasting awareness of how much gas we had because of shortages. Hotel rooms were difficult to find but after 28 hours and two hotel stays, we made it safely to my son’s home in Michigan to wait out the storm. It was a long way to drive but not knowing how long we might be out of our home, being with family felt like the best decision.

And through the emotional and physical upheaval of it all, my work never missed a beat. I didn’t let one client down. Not one.

I’m fortunate. My business doesn’t require that I live in any particular location. As an online marketing manager and strategist, I can work from anywhere as long as I have internet. My smartphone was my lifeline to the outside world, but I have identified three things necessary to manage an online business under any condition.

  1. Planning and organization skills – The work I do for my clients is planned in advance. We have a strategy and a time line. Not one to fret over deadlines, social media posts and emails are scheduled in advance. When I left Florida on a Thursday at a moment’s notice, I had at least four days before I would have a pressing deadline. We stayed in Michigan a few days, worked from there and went on to North Carolina. We stayed there a few days and I forged ahead with conference calls, planning sessions and screen time. Having a plan and working in advance has never hindered anyone’s success.
  2. Hootsuite – This is my go-to scheduling tool. It’s the perfect tool for planning and organization. All of my client’s social media marketing and promotion is scheduled in advance using Hootsuite Pro. I do all of my scheduling from my laptop but if there is an issue when I’m on the road, I use the Hootsuite app on my smartphone to make edits or schedule last minute posts. Hootsuite is an essential part of my tool kit, easy-to-use and affordable.
  3. Smartphone – We know that smartphones have transformed behaviors across the board. We have phone chargers in our car and my phone never left my hand. My family texted me regularly. I kept up with email and responded to everything promptly. I made and rescheduled appointments as needed. Facebook kept me connected to all that was happening in Florida and in my home town. The governor’s frequent televised appearances urging people to evacuate showed up on my newsfeed. I communicated with friends who were also staying or evacuating. My phone was my lifeline to the outside world.

When Irma turned east and went toward Orlando and then northward, we were spared the worst of the storm. My home suffered no damage, although I can’t say the same for some of the plants in the yard.  The experience was emotionally and physically draining beyond anything I have ever experienced.

Life is beginning to feel ‘normal’ again, but I still have NOAA prioritized in my Facebook newsfeed and noticed that we now have Pilar popping up out in the Atlantic. I don’t see anything urging me to go, but I know that when the time comes I have the skills and tools needed to keep my business running and my clients happy.