Is your small business resilient?
This may not be something you think about most days, but how resilient is your business? How could you as a small business owner function if you had a crisis on your hands? If the unexpected happens to you or a loved one, can your business tick over without you if it must? Would your bills still get paid?
Many big businesses write business continuity plans to prepare for such events and ensure they are resilient. But what about you as a small business owner? Do you have a contingency plan in place?
A difficult truth about self-employment
This is the thing about being self-employed. The flexibility it brings is wonderful, but when you decide you want a break, or worse, life forces you to take one, you can’t easily just log off and walk away. Unlike many employed jobs, there is often nobody else to keep things going unless you plan to be resilient.
We don’t want to be half-there for our loved ones if a time comes when they really need us, sat by their side with our blue-lit faces staring into our screens. For the sake of our loved ones, our relationships and ourselves, we have to be be able to switch off when it matters. And that takes forward planning whilst things are smooth sailing.
"How can I do that? The business is just me"
It’s a tough thing to get your head around when so much (if not all) of the business revolves around you. Many of us carry our businesses around in our heads; our plans, ambitions, concerns, obligations and to-do lists. But what would happen if your head could not be accessed for a while? Would it all fall apart?
If only you could back yourself up. I mean, you back up your files and computer to the cloud, right? You probably back up your phone sometimes too. They’re important tools for running your business, so why wouldn’t you? You, though, are the most important asset to your business. Do you back yourself up? That would definitely make your business more resilient.
"That sounds a bit Black Mirror to me..."
Fear not. I am talking about back-up of the human kind; I have no desire to zap a carbon copy of your mind into a dystopian world. Charlie Brooker has shown us how wrong that can go. No, I am talking about the simple process of creating a plan and then sharing it with a trusted person who can cover you when you need them to.
It's more like leaving a spare key with your neighbour
This is one of the ways in which working with a Virtual Assistant adds value to your business. Knowing you have the loyal support of a trusted professional who understands you and your business removes a heavy weight from your shoulders. The realisation that you’re not carrying everything on your own and that you have help lined up for if you need it can bring a remarkable sense of relief and peace of mind from day one.
So, how do we do this? Becoming more resilient is really much simpler than you might expect. So much so, that I have broken it down into a few actionable steps that you can start today, to be better prepared for whatever tomorrow may bring.
1. You need to have a Plan B
The first action is to create a contingency plan, or Plan B. In fact, you should really do this for your business whether or not you are thinking about making it more resilient by working with a Virtual Assistant.
You can do this on your own, and there are plenty of sites such as this one, which outline the process you need to follow. Alternatively, you might prefer to talk it through with somebody else, and outsource this task. As a forward thinker who considers all eventualities, I can help you through this process and work with you to produce your Plan B.
In brief, you’ll need to:
a) Think of every possible scenario that could happen to you and your business.
b) Categorise those into ‘business continuity’ (how can the business maintain some degree of functionality?) and ‘disaster recovery’ (what has to happen in the event of a disaster?).
c) Think each one of those scenarios through to work out what risks they pose. Then you’ll need to prioritise them according to probability and degree of risk.
d) Starting at the top of the list, write out the steps that should be followed to mitigate that risk, and who should be contacted. You may find that some of the mitigating actions can even be taken now, to manage those risks proactively.
2. Find your 'go-to' person and share the plan
Trust is everything in this situation. You haven’t spent years building up your business to give away all your secrets and contacts to potential competitors. That’s why many small business owners will tell their partner, spouse or child what to do with the business in case of an emergency. The problem with this plan is that if you are enduring a personal crisis, it’s likely that they are experiencing the effects of it too, so they may not be much help.
You need the right person in place to step in as your understudy if needed. They can manage your client relationships and take care of the business side of things whilst you are otherwise engaged.
The ideal type of person to share your plan with is somebody who understands and genuinely cares about you and your business, but from a further distance than your close family and friendship circle. It might be an employee, if you have one. Alternatively, you might opt to share this with an independent professional, such as a Virtual Assistant.
If they are somebody new to you, you’ll need to build up trust before you share your Plan B. This will happen naturally the more you work with and get to know each other. It’s advisable though to have a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in place, and you should check that the person has professional indemnity insurance.
When you share your Plan B, make sure you allow time to talk through it, check understanding on both sides and actually test it out.
3. Keep your Plan B updated and accessible
It’s no good writing your Plan B, never showing it to anybody and then filing it in some obscure folder, never to see the light of day again. Hopefully you will never need to follow it, but you still need to make this plan a part of your life.
The plan itself should be tested every 6 months to ensure it is still relevant. Your go-to support person (or people) should have access to this plan. Therefore, saving it in a shared, cloud location (with a backup copy) is recommended. Keep a shortcut to the document somewhere handy.
I really hope the sh*t never hits your fan
But I can help you to make sure your business is prepared for if it ever does. And I can help you to deal with unexpected things when they happen.
You will even find it easier to take planned breaks from work when you have this support in place. Now wouldn’t that be nice?
I am developing some packages built specifically around this standby service and will update this post with more details soon. In the meantime, if you’re interested to find out more, get in touch and I’ll be happy to speak with you about your support requirements.