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Crucial planning ahead for problems

Contingency planning and being prepared are important steps for a business owner – but steps that are not urgent so can easily be left behind in the day to day busyness of business and making a profit.

I was reminded of this topic today when I read an article called ‘When bad stuff happens’ – being about small business owners needing to think ahead to potential problems. And having procedures in place to cope when problems do arise.

Back in 1999, I had a contract to prepare some contingency plans for a major Australian company. We did various things, but one key task was preparing a checklist and contingency plan for the morning of 1 January 2000 – the day computers were going to fail and planes fall from the sky! The checklist included things such as ‘turn on a light switch. If it doesn’t work, try a second switch. If it still doesn’t work, look at neighbouring buildings and street lights – do they have power?’ We thought ahead and gave staff options to get all the information before emergency procedures were put into place.

So what sort of things do you need procedures for in your business? Obviously, that depends on your business, but some simple procedures you could start with are:

  • make sure someone else has a list of key contacts in case you are suddenly out of action. For example, my key clients and contacts are on a list with my husband so they would not be left wondering about me if I disappeared for a while
  • give someone else access to your PO box, or at least permission to get your mail redirected
  • prepare a list of essential business passwords so someone else can manage things – for instance, passwords for your blog, email and online shop administration
  • if you send out products, writing a procedure on how to package and send them is crucial for another person to be able to pick it up for you
  • if you are a service provider, establish some relationships now so there are people you can refer clients to or outsource work to if you can’t complete promised work
  • give your bookkeeper, accountant or a trusted person the means to be able to complete IAS/BAS statements for you, including how to pay any tax owing, so you avoid fines and problems with the ATO while you are ill or unavailable
  • prepare some standard responses to emails so the same message can be sent out even in your absence. Think about adding some of that common information to your website, too, to reduce how many people ask the same question – much easier for someone trying to fill in for you, but also a great time saver for you in the mean time!

If you start implementing some of these plans into your business, I’d love to hear about it – although I hope it never becomes necessary to use the procedures for a negative problem (using them because you win a trip around the world is a different story!)

Use your words and time wisely!

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