Next week, a company will be working in my basement to chip away part of the concrete and to replumb our downstairs bathroom (we’re moving the toilet and adding a shower) and to add a sump pit.
So to get ready for the plumbing contractors, I tore down my basement bathroom: The sink and toilet came out, the walls came down, etc. Unfortunately, in the process, I was cutting away drywall and the drywall knife slipped and sliced across my wrist. There was blood. Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been (a quick-thinking, first-aid-trained wife and some bandages did the trick) but I came SO close to a very serious injury… or perhaps worse.
KNIFE IN. IDEA OUT.
I get a lot of business ideas from the things that happen in my life (like when a freak downpour flooded my basement last year), and this is no different: I started to think about being out of commission for a while (or permanently) and how that would affect my clients. It made me think about succession planning and contingency planning. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I’m a big believer in contingency plans.
As a business owner, I want my clients to rely entirely on me and to find me so invaluable that they couldn’t imagine anyone else helping them — it’s in my business’ best interest to be perceived that way by my clients. But if I want to be truly helpful, I would be wise to have a contingency plan in place for each client.
As well, my clients would be wise to have a back-up plan, just in case. The back-up plan doesn’t have to include having someone else on retainer just in case I can’t help out. That’s expensive for the client. But the back-up plan should include knowing where to find the right solution provider should the need arise.
If the knife had cut deeper today, what would my clients do to replace me? Would they feel like they were starting from scratch to find another service provider or would they be able to move forward quickly and easily? (Selfishly, I want to be missed. As a professional, I want them to be able to pick up where I left off with very little impact to them.)
HERE’S WHY YOU SHOULD BE WORRIED
What happens if one of your service providers or vendors suddenly disappeared? How long would it take you to replace them? At what cost?
Make a list of all of your service providers and vendors. Then list either a couple of replacements or a place to find more service providers. Don’t get lazy and write “the phone book” or “the internet”. Do some legwork and find a few qualified service providers and vendors who can meet your needs.
Once you’ve done that, think about what information you need to provide those professionals in order to seamlessly switch over to them should the need arise. If possible, collect that information altogether and keep it in a safe place… sort of a “in case of emergency, break glass” kind of place. Schedule time regularly (quarterly? Maybe every 6 months?) to check this information and ensure that it is up to date.
There are some risks to this: It does take time; and if you have a great relationship with your current service provider, it can seem a little unfaithful. But it’s the right thing to do for your business so they should appreciate that.
Schedule time to get prepared!
OTHER BUSINESS LESSONS FROM LIFE
I occasionally encounter other situations in life that teach me business lessons. You might want to read about business lessons learned from when I vacationed in London England, when I travelled to Minneapolis recently with my wife, when I got terrible service from a local furnace and air conditioning company, and when I witnessed a car accident.