By Ron Kustek
Sometimes things just don’t go as we planned. Sure, we can think through a great number of details when creating our business plans, and then once we gain more information we tweak our plan to do some additional re-planning. The reality is that planning how you want your business to be is never really finished — as many of you already know who have been in business for a number of years.
There are many things we think about that we ‘hope’ don’t happen — but hope is not a strategy. Instead, considering what ‘may’ happen is what wise business owners do in order to protect themselves during any economic downturn, change in consumer preferences, or even those errant acts of nature that sometimes occur.
So how do we begin to think about how we would protect ourselves, and from what? There are always risks in the world, some of them are external to our business and some of them are internal. Let’s take a look at a few things that may occur during the life of your business.
Each business operates surrounded by many uncontrollable external factors — things such as the weather, legislative and political events, economic shifts as well as changes in consumer preferences. For instance, it’s conceivable that in the future your business may be negatively impacted by a local change in the way the street or intersection is designed.
If you depended upon street-side parking, and instead there was the community need to improve traffic flow by doing away with the street parking, what would you do? Do you have access to other parking areas? Would you introduce valet parking for your guests’ convenience?
Is there a nearby parking lot or structure where you could make an arrangement to validate parking for customers during peak hours? These are all things that could happen — and you can protect yourself by planning in advance if such an issue arose.
A very popular business was in an area that had power outages during heavy rains — something many of us experience in our homes. But if your phones, computers and overall business depends on the electricity being on — do you have a back-up plan (a contingency plan) for when your power goes out?
There are a number of affordable battery back-up systems that store electrical power from 1 to 8+ hours. Make sure you consider which are ‘essential’ items to backup (such as your computers, your phone system, your credit card transaction processor, etc.) and then buy these devices so that you can continue operating — even in the dark (back-up candles can also be used and are always a nice touch for additional ambience).
There are also a number of “internal” factors which may be out of your control. Let’s say you have a prized employee that you trust implicitly and that you hope one day will take over your business. They’ve been with you for years, and are smart, insightful, loyal and key to your operation.
Whether it’s a sudden change in their family or living situation, or if their partner or parent becomes ill and needs their care — they may need to reluctantly leave your business to attend to family matters — in the next week. What will you do? The best ‘answer’ is in your contingency plan, where you don’t depend on any ‘one’ employee that you just can’t do without.
Teaching a number of employees the same skills, developing more than one person to learn as much as possible about your business — will protect you from something that is quite probable during the time you own your business.
We all realize that there is very little in life that we actually control — but there is a great deal that we can influence and plan for. When your family depends on your business and your livelihood is the business that you’ve created, spending some serious thought time in protecting yourself, and your family, is time well spent — which will also give you comfort knowing that you’ve thought about things and made contingency plans to best handle those challenging situations.
Ron Kustek is a business instructor at Cabrillo College.