Small Business Sustainability
Um … what is that?
All I mean is this — you can make it through the next crisis without as much pain as you went through this time.
In 14 years as a continuity planner for Federal and state governments, utilities, and non-profits, I’ve never walked through a real crisis. The closest I got was the earthquake in Washington, DC in 2011 while I was at a customer’s site. All that resulted in was a crack in my own house that I have yet to fix.
Now, let me throw in a humble brag; part of the reason is that customers often followed what I told them to do in their day-to-day operations, and that allowed them to make it through mini-crisis before they became huge. That focus on sustainability — creating a business that will function no matter what — saved their butts.
There are some things that we cannot control. For example, I was laid off in 2012 and ended up on disability three years later with an autoimmune disease. Nothing I could do about that and the stress of trying to work around it was making it even worse. No one saw a pandemic coming and absolutely no one imagined shutting the country down to combat it.
But we can control a number of things. If your business, whether you are a solopreneur, Mom & Pop shop, a restaurant, or a tech startup, you can do some things that will allow you to staunch the bleeding when the knife hits you and get back, though teetering, on your feet. You will walk again!
Even during the current lockdown for COVID-19, it is not too late, even if you have to enter bankruptcy. But you can recover and you can be ready, as much as is humanly possible the next time.
Global warming. Pandemics. Shifts in technology. These are issues that you can actually begin to plan for in advance. You just need a roadmap to get there. Continuity planning — sustainability — is just as important for a single owner/employee as it is for Lockheed Martin.
Let me use my setup as an example. I am a writer, editor, and management consultant. I have my important files backed up on a removable hard-drive (three terabytes, $100) that sits on my home network. That drive is backed up weekly to the cloud. It costs me $9.99 a month. When I had a contract with a local state government, I backed their files up in two places.
Student papers that I edit are corrected in the cloud through a connection to my laptop. That allows me to have a copy on the laptop and in the cloud simultaneously. When my six-year-old laptop takes a dive, I will be able to recover my files after I talk someone into giving me credit.
Mistake that I made: keep your credit open. I had an account with Dell that was closed from lack of use. I could literally have bought a mouse and paid it off the next month, keeping that account open for another year.
You cannot make your business insurer cover pandemics. Most policies are not written for that. You cannot stop an earthquake that supposedly happens once every 500 years. Hopefully, you are social distancing with the rest of us, which means your business might be closed. But you can be ready for the next crisis. Because one is coming. How you make it through is a matter of recreating your business as a sustainable business.
There are many resources available on the web that can help you, and as I run into low- or no-cost options, I will link to them in future articles on Medium. Take a deep breath. Relax. Pray AND meditate. We will get through this.