I used to do the whole Griswold Christmas light thing. My garden shed was stuffed to breaking point with rope lights, icicle lights, and blow mould lights … basically the entire stock lines of your average Christmas light store shoved in a 4m x 4m space.
I would start planning the designs in September, and then dedicate two whole weeks of full time work assembling the lighting displays across my property. I would carefully wind strings of lights up our massive trees and artistically arrange the lights and displays throughout the garden.
The hardest part was always assembling the lights and displays on the roof of my double-story house. My roof display had Santa, sleighs, and many parcels as well as every tile covered with strings of thousands of brilliant LED light bulbs.
Roofs are not my favourite things, so I always left decorating them for last. Each year I would tentatively climb my way up the ladder rung by rung, and then have my young daughters pass me up boxes of lights and fixings.
Once I was on the roof, one of my kids would hold the mobile phone with 000 plugged in ready to call in case I fell off.
This particular year, I had been up on the roof for a few hours and was putting the finishing touches to the sleigh.
“Mum. M – uuuu — mmmm. It’s getting bit dark,” called a tiny voice from the ground.
“Yeh yeh. Just getting late in the day. Don’t bother me now. Santa isn’t sitting right!”
15 minutes later …
“Mum. M – uuuu — mmmm. I really think you need to look. It’s getting really really dark”
I had finished the sleigh and was now focussed on doing the tiles.
“I am busy right now. I will be done in 20 minutes and I will look then.”
15 minutes later …
“Mum. M – uuuu — mmmm. I’m scared. I think you need to get off the roof now.”
That made me stop!
I looked up.
The sky was a boiling angry deep green, swirled with ink black and shot through with constant lightning flashes. It looked like the four horsemen of the apocalypse were riding out in the front of the biggest supercell I had ever seen.
And there I was … on the top of my double storey roof … holding a large pointy wire framed Christmas tree. I could not have been more like a lightning rod if I tried.
I figured I had a whole 3 minutes before the storm struck, so I slid down the roof, barely touched my metal ladder on the way down and threw my girls and myself into the house.
Remember hearing about The Gap storms?
That was our storm and we were directly in the firing line of the worst storm to hit our area in decades.
Looking out through my windows, I saw neighbours roofs fly down the road and heard an ancient gum tree impale a house a few doors up. The wind and horizontal rain was so fierce that my front door was blown in and rain came in through the edges of the window frames.
After what seemed like hours the storm finally passed, and we joined our stunned neighbours to survey the damage.
Every house in the street … but ours … had roof damage.
Every house in the street … but ours … had water throughout their home.
Every house in the street … but ours … needed to be tarped.
Our house became the temporary dry haven for kids and pets that night while the parents all pitched in to help cover and repair the worst of the damage.
What of my Christmas lights?
Aside from Santa having a new windswept hairdo, all my lights on my roof were perfectly intact.
The lights on the trees in my garden did not fare as well. Unfortunately many of my trees were now horizontal and twisted as if a giant had decided to nip the buds off an errant bush. My garden displays were a mess of tangled wires, dashed dreams and lost investment.
Not surprisingly, we didn’t win the Christmas light competition that year.
And the point?
Many small businesses are like me wiring my roof lights. They focus on the task at hand, and despite repeated warnings, they don’t look up to see what is going on around them.
Small businesses without a solid online social media presence, or who have websites that have crappy content and out of date code fall into this category. Parts of the business may be able to survive a business storm, but other parts will be trashed.
This Christmas, as you enjoy your neighbourhood light displays, take each twinkling roof as a sign to think about your business, and where you might want to do things differently.
Which approaching storms are you choosing not to see? Is it time to rethink your online strategy for 2016?