Effective Strategies is devoted to sharing ideas that can improve your business performance. Last issue, we identified some areas of risk that you face as a small business owner when your personal life requires a bit more of your attention than normal. This issue, we discuss how to build a storm shelter that will protect your business. If you missed the last issue,click here to read it.
Here are a few ideas for solid life storm shelter construction. Sometimes you have to be in the middle of a life storm to know exactly what to expect. The best disaster plans are created by groups of people who have lived through similar experiences. If your company is very small, consider forming an honorary board of directors made up of trusted friends and business peers. Hold a brainstorming session where you bring them together to identify every possible storm you could face (both personal and professional). Then, brainstorm ways to prepare for and address each type of event.
Create strong time management habits. The difference between being a high-functioning professional and a victim to your to-do list is your ability to manage your time. You only get 24 hours each day and you must devote a certain amount of time to caring for family, home, and rest. Carry a planning tool – day planner notebook, personal digital assistant (PDA) like a Palm Pilot, etc. Block out time each day to plan your activities. Thirty minutes spent at the end of today is an important investment in your effectiveness for tomorrow. If you have a charity activity that requires time, block time out on your calendar to handle tasks related to that activity. If you handle any portion of your bookkeeping or taxes, block time beginning at the end of the year to handle those increased activities. If you must maintain a certain number of billable hours that you personally perform, look for other business operation tasks that you can trim during that period.
Plan for the events you know are coming. If you are busy with your baseball team April through July, allot a few extra hours a week during January through March to work ahead if possible. Get up an hour early during your busier months to capture that precious early morning time for handling your business paperwork. If planned activities also cut into your billable hours, set aside part of your revenue from your other months to cover your reduced billable hours during the “high non-profit activity” months. You should also reduce your expenses year-round to provide a financial cushion.
Create an emergency plan for events you can’t predict. Make a list of disasters such as a close family member becoming disabled or a car accident that disables you or your vehicle. For each of those disasters, come up with an action plan. Perform this activity with a close friend or family member so that someone can think clearly for you if you cannot should the disaster actually occur. They can also help you brainstorm ideas for your disaster plan that will provide more logical options. When you own a company, you must carefully build a support system because there is no paid time off unless you’ve built your company to the point that it runs without you.
Identify a support team. While you may never need them, they are critical. They may be friends or trusted business peers who also need you to commit to be there for them in an emergency as well. Make a list of people and service businesses that could support you for any needs you have in your personal or professional roles.
If a family member became sick or disabled, you might employ the services of a home health provider to care for them while you work; perform business operations tasks such as scheduling and accounts receivable while you sit with them; or contract out some of your bookkeeping tasks that you normally handle yourself. If you are going on vacation, you might ask someone in your organization to handle the decisions that you normally handle and contact you by phone during emergencies. If your organization is small, you might use an answering service if simply checking your voice mails once a day isn’t enough.
If your business is equipment-intensive such as heating and air conditioning repair and you are the only one who can perform that service in your company, work out an agreement with another trusted, competent heating and air conditioning repair company that can handle your customers when you are out of town or ill. A local photographer has an agreement with another photographer and that plan worked perfectly when he was hospitalized with pneumonia two days before a client’s wedding. You may set up a referral agreement with them so that you still profit from your marketing investment even though you didn’t personally perform the work. Such an agreement may ensure that the other business doesn’t walk away with your client permanently.
Perform preventive maintenance. You shouldn’t let your vehicle go without the necessary oil changes, tire rotation, and checkups. Nor should you neglect your home or your body. Performing the necessary maintenance on your house such as cleaning your chimney in your wood-burning fireplace or changing the filters in your furnace ensures that major repairs don’t rob you of necessary funds and time you desperately need to nurture your business.
Your body needs rest and preventative maintenance too. Regular checkups can identify major health problems that can prevent long, expensive illnesses. Downtime with illness robs you of the opportunity to serve your customers and run your business. Rest, a healthy diet, and an enjoyable exercise routine will allow you to fight stress and build up your resistance to disease and fatigue.
Locate reliable professional advice. Every business should have access to a bookkeeper, certified public accountant (CPA), and attorney. Locate professionals you trust and budget for their services. You may choose handle your own bookkeeping but want to use a CPA to handle your occasional accounting questions and process your tax return. Investing in an hour of your CPA’s time could save thousands of dollars in a single year.
The same thing goes with legal advice. An attorney can help you determine the level of risk your company may pose on your family’s security and choose the right type of business entity (sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, etc.). They can also look at your business processes and determine where you could possibly break the law. You may choose to build a relationship with a business attorney (get referrals from local business people) or subscribe to a plan like Pre-Paid Legal Services (PPL). PPL works like health insurance. You pay a monthly fee and can ask questions to a variety of attorneys. Some services are free to subscribers such as contract review while other services are discounted.
If your business uses computer technology, identify a computer service company that is best suited to the needs of your company. Some companies offer a computer service agreement with perks like priority service and discounted bench service prices.
Employ the right tools to run your business with contingency planning in mind. What tools you use depends on your business. If you are a writer, you can pack your laptop computer with Internet access into the car and write while you are at the bedside of a sick relative. If your business sales strategy employs the use of making phone calls, you can use your cell phone from anywhere in the world with the right calling plan. Many professionals today carry a pocket PC (the hopped-up version of the personal digital assistant such as a Palm Pilot) where they can not only manage their calendar and contacts but process e-mail and handle files like spreadsheets and word processing documents in their favorite software application.
Create backup procedures and train employees how to use them. In this day of modern conveniences and technology, what if your business lost electricity for an hour or more? If you run a restaurant, some equipment is disabled in a power outage. If your business uses a cash register, you need a procedure for handling transactions if the register is down. If you only have one office phone, it shouldn’t be cordless because it won’t ring without power. Last but not least, many businesses rely on computers and need to establish procedures for serving customers if the computers are down.
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Carrie Perrien Smith
President, Soar With Eagles
Release Your Potential
Soar with Eagles equips individuals and organizations with the tools they need to improve their performance by creating powerful strategies, improving communication, and strengthening employee commitment.
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