A few weeks ago, a friend and I were biking on a trail. Beautiful day, great ride, and then all of a sudden I heard this huge “pop!” – it sounded like a gun going off! Now, I’ve been biking trails for 15 years and I’ve never had a flat tire, never mind a blowout. I had no idea what it would sound like, but that’s exactly what it was.
Thankfully, I knew the trail well, and was able to borrow my friend’s bike, ride back to the car, and bring the car back to pick her up. But it got me thinking, what if?
What if I’d been alone?
What if I’d forgotten my cell phone?
What if we’d been farther from the road?
What if we’d been too deep into the woods to drive in and I’d had to carry my bike out?
What if I’d been on a trail I wasn’t as familiar with?
What’s your backup plan?
You can bet that I won’t be riding a trail without a cell phone anytime soon. And I also bought a portable tire repair kit to carry with me.
Have you had any near-misses or actual disasters in your business that highlighted the need for a back up plan? Maybe a computer crashed and then you put a back up system in place? Or maybe you lost a major client and realized you needed to diversify your client base more if you were going to survive?
Who else can do what you do?
It was shortly after my incident on the bike trail that I heard about the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of an entire Russian hockey team. Obviously a far more serious event, and it brought up another point.
Do a few key people hold the knowledge that keeps your business running every day? Or (even worse) does everyone rely on you to direct them on their daily tasks? If there were a blowout on the bike trail, if half your leadership team were to leave to form a new firm, or even if a few people were out sick at the same time, where would that leave your bottom line?
And, by the way, if that one person is you, it’s time for some delegation. If you’re overbooked with doing other people’s work, you’re shortchanging them, yourself and the business.
Just how well do you and your people know the trail of your business? If there are systems in place, does everyone know them? Starting now, implement a cross-training strategy so that several people are capable of performing each task. Even if one person is accountable for it, someone else should be able to step in.
One of my clients, the managing partner of a firm, was recently out with back surgery. When I spoke to him, he was ecstatic at how well his people could take over the firm in his absence. And that meant he could relax and focus on his recovery.
The most successful companies always have a backup plan. It’s not about predicting or expecting disasters, it’s about planning for the worst, while hoping for the best.