I have been spending a lot of time with my laptop recently. Well, you see, as I broke my wrist in February, there isn’t a whole lot I can do around the house. Mind you it does get me out of washing up. I can still cook but peeling onions is still beyond me. And of course, I still cannot drive so I have a chauffeur (and she is getting fed up with it!). So, I have been utilising my time getting caught up on various things. It’s work but so what. A lazy Sunday afternoon doing projections for a client’s exciting new project. Perfect!
Anyway. It set me thinking.
Whatever you are doing at the moment you read this. Stop. Walk out the door and don’t come back or speak to anyone for 3 months. What would you find when you get back. Remember, you cannot speak to anyone not even to say that you’ll be back in 3 months. If you are in business, would it still be running when you get back? If you work on your own it may just have been on pause. If you employ staff, could they carry on without you for 3 months, 6 months, a year or longer? What would your family be thinking about their future? Would they be financially sound?
I hear a lot of discussions about resilience. I have read the risk registers of many businesses, but in most cases, they appear to be a bit of a tick box exercise. They seem to avoid the really challenging questions, preferring to tackle the easy and less scary questions where it is easier to manage the risk. I think this is probably because the thought is too scary. Charities seem particularly prone. I realise that it is probably not necessary to plan for a volcanic eruption in your car park, but I think you see where I am going.
What would you do, or could you do, if you no longer had access to a spreadsheet of any description?
Could you work? I have heard it said that an accountant is someone who makes their living with Excel. I like to think that there is a little bit more to what we do than that, but it does feel like it at times. Excel is just the modern equivalent of a pencil, paper and calculator. But, Excel is an important part of our systems. All of our working papers are on Excel. We regularly do financial projections for ourselves and clients, some as much as 20 years ahead. My latest 20 year projection was monthly with monthly trading, monthly cash flow, and monthly balance sheets! You would not do that with pencil and paper, well, not quickly anyway.
What would you do if the internet went down for a long time?
Now, we are accustomed to it dropping for a few minutes, but suppose it went down and did not come back up anywhere in the UK for a month. The internet is now an integral part of all our lives, but what if it was suddenly taken away and you did not know when it would be back up and running. We run and monitor all of our operations across all of our sites using internet technology. All of our sites utilise a single bank of servers in one central location. All that would be gone. How many other businesses are in that same boat? You might be thinking that you would be alright but if you use large supply companies, they would almost certainly be affected, and that will impact you. What effect will all this have on cash flow? But given you will no longer have access to internet banking, how could you tell?
You lose your mobile phone. We all do it. You put it down and then have to get someone else to phone you so you can find it. What if O2, Vodafone, 3 and the rest were taken offline for an indefinite period?
I don’t know about you but I think that making phone calls is the least of my usage. But, what if I cannot WhatsApp or text. How do I buy train tickets? How do I catch up with the news? I might have to actually go out and buy a newspaper or go to a railway station to get a paper ticket again.
There are many such questions but I think I have got my point across.
A few years ago, I read a book by the Dalai Lama, in which he emphasized the inter-dependence of all things. There is an old saying that no man is an island. Sometimes we like to think that we are completely independent, that we need nobody and can manage our own lives without anybody else’s help. That is just a figment of the imagination. However independent you like to think you are, try living without anything produced by another human being. It’s impossible. You are surrounded by everyday objects that are man-made. The people around you rely upon you as you rely upon them. We are all interdependent, just nodes in a massive framework of human connections. Then you are also dependent upon the natural world as it is dependent upon you.
So, our lives are built upon the framework of these interdependencies. I think that the complexity of these relationships makes it difficult to accept that anything major is going to change. But there may be the occasional ripple. You might be taken ill. Technology may let us down. It happens often enough to a greater or lesser extent. How resilient are you and how resilient is your business?
The most important word in business is “next”. Something goes wrong. It is not a disaster. It is just the next problem to solve. We all have them. It’s what gives business its edge. Next….
Alan E Long
The Long Partnership