I had some time scheduled off, and had many things planned to do during that time off. Knowing me, though, that basically meant I had work to do, but work that was outside of my consulting work. However, the day I came home from my consulting assignment, a Friday afternoon, within 30 minutes my computer decided it didnt want to be a part of my life any more, and suddenly died. From that Friday until ten days later, I was without my main computer, and it turned parts of my life upside down.
Although, being diligent, I had backed up all my printed or written files, one thing I hadnt done was thought about all the programs Ive downloaded over the years and had loaded on my main hard drive. Because I decided to have a computer built, but have my hard drives reinstalled into the new computer, I didnt have any availability to any of the items I used to do my daily work, which included the programs I use to create my newsletters.
Preparation is always the key to ultimate success. Whereas I am usually very prepared when I get into a normal working situation, or when Im giving a presentation, sometimes an event will come up and make me realize just how quickly things can fall apart. How inept do many offices become when suddenly their computers or phones stop working? How many people in your office are ready to go home when the power goes out, not necessarily because they cant work on the computers but because the lights have gone out, the heat or air conditioning has failed, and theyre uncomfortable.
For my own issue, what I did was go out and buy, essentially, an external hard drive. Ill back up every piece of software that I dont have a disk for onto it, so I can load it elsewhere in a moments notice. Ill also back up all of my hard drives onto that drive, except for the operating systems, so that I will have access to any other files I might want to have access to. For instance, it wouldnt do me much good to reload my email program to another computer if I didnt remember to move over my address book files. I made sure the hard drive I bought was sizeable enough to back up both of my drives, as well as my wifes hard drive and my laptop, and at any time I can not only access those files, but I can hook the drive up to any of those computers, as well as any other computers, and have access to those files.
In your office and business, if you take time to think about it, you know that there are those definite possibilities when things arent going to go as planned. Computers can fail at any time; the power isnt always so dependable. For that matter, sometimes your staff isnt all that dependable, as there are always issues with sick time and lateness. Vacations are another matter; theyre often scheduled, but usually its not until a day or two beforehand when you remember that someone is taking time off, and you start to scramble at that point to try to get ready for their absence. And lets not even start talking about money, or lack thereof.
As the events of New York in 2001 and New Orleans of this year have proven, disasters and problems can arise at any time. All of us know what could happen with our lives and our businesses if we dont address these issues in some way when things are going well. What it takes is some time and dedication to put some things in place so that you have at least a fighting chance to survive, or at least be productive, during those times when things arent totally under your control.
One, you need to have a written process for what your office needs to do when things go awry. Ive yet to work in an office where there wasnt some filing or cleaning that didnt need to be taken care of, because thats usually the last thing anyone wants to work on. Cleaning out ones desk is a good thing to do in times like this, getting rid of all that clutter of things that you throw in there to get it out of the way. You may need to have a version of an organizational chart to parse out who will pick up certain parts of a persons work when that person is out of the office, including yourself. Maybe thats a day where people can choose to make phone calls that they havent had time to get to.
Two, you need to have a process in place for the backup and protection of your important information. Many companies have something in place for their computer files through a protected network or server, but what about your paper files, mail, ledgers, etc? Do you have a listing of phone numbers for every employee that you can access for emergency purposes? In your home business or office, do you have a fireproof lockbox for your most important papers?
Three, okay, lets talk about money. How prepared are you and your company in case something happens where you cant get access to your funds? Do you have any cash stored on hand to support you for a short period of time, for things from meals to office supplies? If youre a business owner, have you put away enough cash to give yourself time to readjust if things suddenly slow down for any reason whatsoever? Do you have a plan for what to do with employees if business suddenly slows down?
Ive only mentioned a few things here, but maybe theyll get your mind thinking about other types of things that can go wrong, and how youll handle them. Remember, setbacks are inevitable; how you deal with them is the true measure of what youre made of.