For much of my working life, most days have been the usual get up, shower, breakfast, dress and then off to work. Although the work can vary from day to day and week to week, it is basically accounting and tax. There are the occasional things we go and do, but the general pattern runs on in the same old familiar way. I think most people are much the same. We keep on repeating and repeating.
Technology these days is pretty reliable. You get in your car. It starts. It takes you where you want to go. You park it and it waits there patiently awaiting the moment you get back in and start it again. Your computer comes to life at the press of a button and works until you switch it off again. All our gadgets are seemingly so reliable and we come to rely upon them. We build the pattern of our lives around that reliability.
Then something happens. It could be as simple as a puncture. When was the last time you changed a tyre? You are on your way to a meeting, to pick someone up, to an event. Do you have a momentary panic? Where is the spare? Where is the jack? Where is the security socket that you need to undo the wheel nuts? Am I going to be late? Will I miss my boat, train or plane? All of a sudden life is not so predictable.
I clearly remember when an excavator cut the internet cable and at that moment severed the internet connections to the whole of the North of Scotland. Our offices could no longer communicate with our servers and we had to send everybody home. Never saw that coming.
Thankfully these sorts of disruptions are infrequent and while they are annoying, are generally dealt with quickly, with the effects lasting from a few minutes to a day or two. In the grand scheme of things, they are an annoyance, that’s all.
Let me ask you another question. You come to the end of your working day. The staff have all left for the day. Everything is normal. You have a fair idea of what you need to do tomorrow. Your longer term projects are moving ahead nicely. You switch off your computer and go home.
Now picture this. You leave your workplace. Something happens. From the moment you leave, you cannot communicate in any way with your staff. The next time you speak to anyone is 3 months later.
At the end of these 3 months when you get back in touch, do you still have a business? What state is it in? Let’s suppose you are going away to a training event, a trade show or something else away from your normal place of business. As far as anyone is concerned you are due back in a few days. Then they are told that you will not be back immediately and that no-one can tell how long you will be away. On top of that no-one can communicate with you to ask questions, ask advice, or get the answers to business-critical decisions. Can anyone else access the bank account, authorise payments, calculate the wages, deal with client enquiries. What about new customer enquiries. And then of course there is the question of whether your family can still access funds from the business to support their familiar lifestyle.
How resilient is your business? How much does it revolve around you? You might be its strength, but that reliance is also a weakness.
So, what to do? I am fortunate in that we have more than one director. Either of us is capable of running the business solo at least for a short time. Do you have a Number 2 who can step into your shoes? Do you have an understanding with another business owner so that in an extreme situation, they can step in and keep things ticking along? I do not have the solution here for you in your own particular circumstances. But if I have made you think, I have achieved my objective today. Life can be mundane until it isn’t.
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Alan E Long
The Long Partnership