Lessons from the business world that cross over to survival

A lot of folks make preparedness and survival way too complicated. Sometimes applying principles from another arena can work to make things a little easier.

I was writing up some essential business skills for a group of budding entrepreneurs and it occurred to me that there’s actually a great deal of crossover from one world to the other. These basics of small business ownership are also very applicable to prepping and survivalism. Really, they’re important are life lessons that apply widely.

You may have to make some sacrifices to get things off the ground.

Most folks don’t just start a new business from scratch without giving a few things up. They have to make sacrifices of both time and money to prioritize their goals.

It’s the same with building a stockpile or making a major purchase. Most of us don’t have the extra money just lying around, waiting to be spent. We have to shift our finances around and do without something we may like to buy something we may need. And it’s the same with time. You have to take some of your spare time and spend it building your business, and likewise, you may have to reallocate your time to learn important skills, to practice those skills, to go to events, and to get to know others in your “field.”

Always assess the risk/reward ratio.

Some things just aren’t worth it in business. You may want to do something because it sounds “cool” and unique, but it may not be something that will reap the financial rewards you need for the time or money you’d spend to make it happen.

The same is true in survival situations. It’s easy to come on the internet and type-holler about your “cold, dead hands” and how you’re willing to go down in a blaze of glory to fight the cops/feds/mob/horde/zombies at your door who want your guns/stuff. You need to stop and think – if you die defending the gun in your hand, your family will still lose the gun and also lose you. What was the benefit here, aside from your short-lived ego boost?

Retreat is a viable option. Live to fight another day, when you can do it on your terms. Anyway, you’ve got some more guns and stuff cached, don’t you?

Have multiple streams of income.

In the current economic climate, businesses that had more than one stream of income (or that could quickly create one) are still standing while many of those who only had one fixed way of doing things have gone belly up. Take for example, restaurants who quickly set up curbside and delivery options, versus the ones that were fancy dine-in only experiences.

It’s the same with personal streams of income. Never put all your eggs in one basket. These days your job can be gone with a presidential announcement of closures. Here’s an article with more information about personal income streams.

Be careful who you let have the keys.

In stores that I’ve worked at previously, some employees are “key-holders.” Not just anyone gets to be a key-holder. It’s a privilege a person has to earn by proving themselves to be honest, trustworthy, and hardworking. A key holder has access to everything without supervision, so you have to be certain they’re not going to steal money or merchandise.

The same thing goes for the folks you let know about your supplies. You want to be certain that anyone you trust with access is worthy of that trust. You may want to consider holding some supplies back so you don’t show your entire hand to the outsider.

Don’t depend on just one supplier.

Imagine you have a small business manufacturing doodads. To make your doodads, you must have a whatsit, that you get exclusively from Whatsit, Inc. If Whatsit Inc. can’t deliver your whatsit, then you cannot make your doodads. If you only have one supplier, if they go out of business, you go out of business.

The same thing is true with your supplies. You should have various different sources. Let’s use food as an example. Most folks only get their food from the grocery store. They might also go to the farmer’s market but that’s the extent of their diversification. But if you know how to get food from the grocery store, the farmer’s market, a local farm, your backyard garden, hunting, or foraging, it’s going to take a whole lot longer before you run out of sources for food.

Don’t expect others to treat you ethically because you treated them ethically.

In the business world, for some of us, it’s important to do business ethically. We will be honest even if it costs us extra money. We will do the honorable thing.

The mistake comes when we expect other people to approach business the same way. Another person may not consider a savvy but unfortunate (for you) move to be unethical. I recently had a conversation with a business person I very much respect and our opinions on the actions of another company were quite different. This is not uncommon. If you run your business expecting everyone to have the same values as you, it may lead to some very unpleasant surprises in business dealings.

The same thing is true in the survival world. Just because you have someone’s back, you can’t necessarily expect them to have yours. Just because you are honorable in making a trade, it doesn’t mean they won’t try to put powdered chalk in a bag that they tell you is flour or baby formula. Check everything and trust nobody until they’ve proven repeatedly that they are reliable.

Don’t try to grow too fast.

Some folks start a business and keep dumping in money and hiring people at a rapid clip. One joint study by the Kauffman Foundation and Inc. found that roughly two-thirds of the fastest-growing startups ended up failing. (source)

The same can be true for people trying to get prepped. Unless there is an imminent emergency, taking your time and thinking through your purchases and investments is a must wiser course of action. You’ll make mistakes and invest money unwisely if you rush it without thoroughly identifying your needs and assessing your circumstances. Rome was not built in a day. Neither is a good stockpile.

Know when to cut your losses.

You win some. You lose some. Nobody wins in business all the time. Every fiscal quarter is not forever better than the quarter before it. Every idea is not a good one. Every ad campaign is not successful. (At least not most of the time.)

The same is true with survival plans. You may think you’ve got an iron-clad Plan A and that Plan B isn’t necessary. That’s just when mother nature or some random event will come along and add some radiation or toxic chemicals to the mix. Then, suddenly, the place you were bugging in is no longer safe. The water is now tainted. Or you might be getting overrun with unprepared people.

We don’t want to spend our time and money creating a plan, only to have to walk (or run) away from it. Nobody builds a retreat with the intention of leaving it behind. But some situations are so extreme or go so terribly and unexpectedly wrong that you may need to cut your losses and move on to Plans B, C, or D.

Good managers present a unified front.

In business, it’s important to present a unified front. Even if you have an employee who is in the wrong, you don’t want to chastise them in front of the customers or other employees. It’s always best to discuss these things privately to avoid humiliation for the employee and to present your organization professionally. Most customers don’t want to see an employee in trouble or embarrassed – it makes everyone uncomfortable. And in cases where there could be liability matters? You definitely want to have those kinds of discussions privately.

The same thing goes for your preparedness community or family. Even if a family member has been in the wrong, deal with the matter privately. Division looks an awful lot like weakness and that’s never the vibe you want to give out during a potentially life and death situation.

Managing people is managing people. Being able to organize tasks, motivate people, and run things professionally are all skills that are widely applicable. It’s just that in a survival scenario, the stakes may be extremely high.

Always have a backup plan.

In business, there’s always the possibility that something could go wrong. That’s why you have a variety of back-up plans: liability insurance, business or property insurance, employee redundancy, a procedure for how to still conduct business if the computers go down, a process for getting shifts covered if someone calls in sick, a chain of command for helping unhappy customers…the list goes on and on of strategies used by a successful business.

Very often disasters come with surprising effects that you may not have expected. There’s also the possibility your carefully planned survival strategy won’t work for some reason. For example, if you’re bugging out, the back road you were going to take might be washed out or damaged by the disaster you’re fleeing. If you’re staying put, a secondary disaster could occur that makes it impossible. You could lose the preps you intended to rely on in a natural disaster but if you have homeowner’s insurance, you may be able to replace them. Never rely on just one strategy. Always have more than one plan.

And don’t forget skills redundancy. There should never be a job that only one person knows how to do. You need backups for people, too. Of course, there will be one person who is a more skilled medic, but what if your medic is injured, perhaps even unconscious and unable to direct the next person on what to do?  If somebody else has medical knowledge, they can treat the medic. Everyone of appropriate age should have defensive skills, driving skills, and fire-building skills.