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Winter Journal

Volume 32, Issue 4

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Monday, 04 April 2016 05:00

Business Continuity Gets Personal

Written by  Vicki Thomas

VIcki-Bike2Each of us likes to have a plan… To know what is around the corner and what could be coming a bit further along. Whether you’re type A, type B or type Z - you want to have some idea of what could happen.

This is what lies at the heart of what we do. Being ready and prepared for the unexpected and the expected. The ability to remain constant and viable. Keeping your business moving forward, ensuring your employees are secure and happy, and trying to ensure progress and success.

For this to be a real possibility in your business life, it also must be the case in your personal life. So what do you do when suddenly you can’t control the personal? The life and plans you’ve made suddenly seem to be uncertain and there are more question marks than answers? We don’t have business continuity plans and BIA’s for our personal lives…. so how, when knowing what you know about resiliency, risk, uncertainty, and recovery do you handle this away from the office?

This is something I’m asking myself a lot these days. Yes, this is a personal column. One that I think speaks to the intangibles of planning, foresight, knowing and unknowing.

I have an incurable disease. I was diagnosed in 2009 with ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a painful disease that causes ulcers to form in my colon (large intestine). When this happens, my colon stops working properly and I am facing upwards of 40 trips to the bathroom daily to confront bloody diarrhea. (Yes, it is horrible.) 1 in 150 Canadians are living and dealing with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease (the numbers are almost the same for the United States). These two diseases are commonly referred to as Inflammatory Bowel Disease. These are invisible diseases. If you were to see me today, I look great - I don’t look like a sick person.

But I am. And things are getting intense. I’ve always lived my day-to-day with plans and to do lists. I set goals. I determined the best way to achieve these goals. And then I did the work and achieved my goals. This resulted in more goals and more work. A continuing cycle that brought me happiness, many rewards, some failures, and many excellent lessons learned along the way.

Since my diagnosis of ulcerative colitis in 2009, I’ve done a lot. I’ve raced at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic, I’ve won a bunch of bike races, I’ve developed a successful freelance career, I’ve traveled all over Europe - I’ve lived a very full life. In between this I spent one week in hospital in Belgium from Dec. 24 - Dec. 31, 2010 - this derailed my cyclo-cross season. Then in 2011, I crashed during a race pre-ride and fractured a vertebrae - this ended my cyclocross season. Then in 2012, I got extremely ill again and spent 12 days in hospital - altering my plans again.

Through all of this I was able to readjust, bounce back and focus on the future and my goals. Throughout this time I’ve tried every drug there is - all of them eventually failing my body. And now, here it is 2016 and I’m left waiting.

Vicki-Bike1All plans are on hold. The trip to France ride up massive mountains and eat bowls of ice cream has been cancelled. My husband’s plans to travel to Belgium and race are put on hold. We have no plans. We focus only on getting through today.

We’re waiting to find out when I’ll have surgery and have my colon removed. I’ll need two surgeries. Assuming all goes well, this entire process will take anywhere between 6 months to one year.

The goals and plans for 2016 are empty now. Now the only thing of importance on the calendar is the surgical consult scheduled for late May. I hope at this appointment we’ll get some answers and some dates. Some dates that will let us get back to our lives.

Only then can I do some planning and preparation. How to handle my freelance work while I’m recovering from surgery? How to get back to my contract technical writing job as quickly as possible? How soon can I get back to riding my bike and enjoying being outside? How soon until my husband can confidently get on a plan without worrying about me? How? When? Why? Where? What?

You might be wondering what this has to do with business continuity…

Well, if I’ve learned anything over the last seven years living with this disease and working at the DRJ - is that no stone can be left unturned. All possibilities must be considered. All options, however outlandish, really do need to be considered. That no plans are solid. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you plan, stuff happens.

I share this with you in an effort to have you think outside-the-box. Think of your employees and what they’re living with. Think of your own family and your obstacles.

As much as we’d like to have a plan for everything, sometimes it’s not possible.