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What grief taught me about running a business

Opinions expressed by australiabusinessblog.com contributors are their own.

I can attribute much of my entrepreneurial and management skills to my father, Fernando, who ran many companies throughout his life. He is responsible for many of my successes, from learning to oversee a team of people and manage conflict to seeing him charm potential clients and nurture a network of trusted colleagues.

That’s why my world was immediately turned upside down when he passed away unexpectedly at the age of 54. You see, life doesn’t wait for the “appropriate” moment. Sometimes it hits you right in the face in the middle of the busiest week of your career to remind you what really matters and what doesn’t.

Lucky for me, if you could say that, my dad died just before Christmas, and, as anyone in the entertainment world can tell you, Hollywood goes quiet around that time of year. I didn’t notice it at the most important meeting of the year, but it was eventful enough to teach me some of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far.

Related: 4 Ways to Overcome Grief Without Neglecting Your Business

1. You Can’t Do It All Alone

Most entrepreneurs would proudly tell you that we are self-sufficient and self-reliant, which is great. But there will be times, both in life and in business, when you have to let someone else take over, if only for a moment. Asking for help, especially from people we don’t want to abandon, is fine. The first step is admitting that you can’t do it alone. After all, if you’ve done a good job, the captain should be able to take a break and know that the crew will keep the ship afloat.

2. Vulnerability can be a great thing

When I think of some of the most successful marketing campaigns I can remember, the first ones that come to mind are always the ones with ‘heart’. From a business standpoint, it can seem scary to humanize our work, to allow the public into our world. But from a customer and customer perspective, there’s nothing that makes you feel closer to a business than knowing that real people are running it.

When the Patagonia founder recently said he would essentially donate the company to fight climate change, it wasn’t the numbers that awakened something in people. It was his heartfelt letter and the way he spoke about his humble beginnings, his journey, his hopes and dreams for the company and the future of planet earth that really moved people to share, repost and admire.

Related: Being Vulnerable Is Business Leadership’s Boldest Act

3. Don’t do it for the money

We’ve all heard this, but sometimes we need the reminder: don’t take the money with you. Frankly, no one knows what happens in the afterlife, but science tells us that material things are left behind, including paper. So don’t let it be the motive. You can still live a good life and treat money as the much-needed bridge to help you reach your destination. Let your passions drive you and know that it feels much better to get rich doing something you truly believe in.

4. Return the favor!

What surprised me when my father died was the number of people who came to the rescue. As the saying goes, “Seek the helpers, there will always be helpers.” Helpers come from all corners of your life, and it’s humbling to experience. I showed colleagues and clients a level of friendliness I never knew was possible, and now they’re on my “do right” list forever. Whether it’s facilitating a connection or putting in an extraordinarily good word for them, I’ll be happy to carry it out.

Related: How to use grief as inspiration?

5. Have a plan

I’d heard that every business plan should include a crisis or emergency plan, but it completely crossed my mind when I tried to write mine down all those years ago. So let this be your cue to dust off yours and add a few pages about what will happen if things go wrong. While I had exceptional business associates like I mentioned above, having a plan of action would have saved all of us a few moments of panic.

6. Take time off

Perhaps the most valuable thing I’ve learned from grief comes in the form of… a vacation. No really. Leave it to a loved one who dies unexpectedly to bring you down again and remind you that life is unexpected and tomorrow is not guaranteed.

He spent most of my father’s life working, and I often think about all the places he couldn’t visit and the things he couldn’t spend his money on because he was too busy making that money. When he was gone, it felt like something had clicked in my brain and suddenly allowed me to be a little more selfish and intentional about my time. I no longer feel guilty about going on vacation when I have the chance or taking a day off in the middle of the week when I need to prioritize my mental health, and I expect my clients and team to do the same. We don’t know how long we’ll be here, so if you’re in a position to do that, I invite you to turn your back on the busy culture once in a while and rewire your brain to the art of working for a living to embrace , not live to work.


Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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