Keeping your business safe – Part 1

The high wire

Most small businesses rely heavily on the boss. That’s you and I. We may have great managers upon whom we can rely when we are away, but sooner or later, we have to be available to make decisions about the big issues.

However, accidents will happen, and therefore we need insurance, whether it is the sort for which we pay premiums, or our insurance is a common sense approach.

Safety nets

One of the hazards of running a small business (or should I say “challenges”) is when we are offered a really good project which is far too large or complex for us to do. It is beyond our current capabilities. We need to assess the risk to our business in taking that source of business on:

  • Can we do it comfortably by engaging another business as a partner, assuming that is acceptable to the client?
  • Is our insurance cover enough if the project goes wrong or if the client thinks it has? (We need to be covered for wrongful claims too).
  • Can we cope with the stress?

If we can say “yes”” to all those questions, then go for it, because it will be an exciting development and something to talk about in pushing our business forward.

If our answer is “no” to any one of those questions, then we can decline politely and respectfully, and still have the opportunity to make a great referral to a bigger business who may reward us then or later.

It is wonderful to get an exciting new client, but it is honourable and sensible to decline when we know we just cannot meet client expectations.

Have you ever bitten off more than you could chew?

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Why we need to give our colleagues and clients a lifeboat

Swanage lifeboat by Mark Murphy

Here’s a funny thing

The other day I wrote about leaving our clients and prospects in the air by not getting back to them at holiday times. I had intended to follow this with a piece about longer periods of absence, such as those due to sickness or the one thing worse than sickness which would result in a permanent absence. The funny thing is that yesterday a friend of mine spoke at a meeting about just such an occurrence.

That really is the only funny thing about it, but have you thought what would happen to your business if suddenly you were not there to run it? It really does matter unless your business is based purely on your knowledge and skill and you have no repeat clients or customers.

So what happens in the event of your temporary or permanent absence?

Have you:

  • Staff who can keep your clients happy by maintaining your business?
  • Someone to take charge and run the business? This can be a business partner, an existing staff member or a friend in the same business who can step in.
  • Insurance to pay out when you can’t be there due to sickness or that other worse thing?

Why does it matter if you aren’t there any more?

  • If you have staff you need to think of their security and well-being.
  • If you have family you need to make sure they still have an income and a business to sell if they so wish.
  • If you have one or more business partner you have a duty to make sure they can carry on.
  • You have a moral duty to your clients to give them certainty of a service.

Lifeboat

My friend, who lost his business partner in tragic circumstances, was able to carry on the business because jointly they had a lifeboat for the survivor. The business carried on.

I have recently taken on clients whose previous accountants / tax advisers had died. Their advisers’ businesses had died with them. I had to start from scratch being unable to contact anyone who could hand over the records. The families of the deceased practitioners must have been left with no business to sell, and thus less money to help them through probable difficult retirements.

It is not morbid to think about what would happen to your business if you were not there to run it. Putting procedures in place is just prudent. It is like insurance for something that will probably never happen. You do it just in case, and because you care for your family, your staff and your clients. You do care, don’t you?

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