If you’ve ever done any kind of a business workshop, you’ve no doubt been exposed to the SWOT analysis. It’s a quick assessment of your business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

The most interesting category to me is Threats: things like new competition, regulatory changes, accidents, and supply disruption that can derail the business instantly or slowly over time. The hope is that, by anticipating threats and doing a little “what if…,” we won’t be blindsided when stuff happens.

Still, in spite of this effort, there’s always something. No sooner are things chugging along nicely than something unexpected rears up and whacks us on the head.

The latest demonstration of this fact-o-life came Thursday night in email form. I’d been pulling together my big annual order of the handmade paper we wrap our soap in. It’s a time-consuming process that involves looking at existing inventory and anticipating sales for each soap. This year we decided to brighten up the color palette by switching things around and adding some new papers, so that had to be factored in too.

Our papers are made to order in Thailand, and can take anywhere from three months to a year to get. Random things can affect the timing, like a monsoon season that starts early. (The papers need sunshine because they’re dried on racks outside.) Once the order is complete, it takes months to travel by boat to San Francisco and clear customs, and more weeks to arrive at our door on Cape Cod. Did I mention that we really have to plan ahead with this?

So Thursday night, I was not happy to get an email from Vicky, who imports the papers for us, telling me that the supplier in Thailand has closed his business. No more paper. Apparently he hasn’t been able to find enough workers to keep the operation going. His regular women have all taken factory jobs. Maybe it had something to do with the flooding that swept over Thailand last fall.

I could marvel at how interconnected we all are, but mostly I want to shriek. NO PAPER?! AIYIYI! I have enough paper to last me till mid-summer, and then what? Can we find another supplier? Should we re-design all the packaging?

Such is the life of a business owner. Stay tuned.