Backup Your Business for the Real World

The spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID19 has disrupted businesses and industries worldwide. The disruptions highlight the importance of having backup plans in your small business.

Now I’m not talking about digital backup plans, which you should already have in place. I’m talking about emergency or disaster backup plans. A typical plan assumes normal situations while a backup plan is specifically for unique situations that can cause major disruptions in your business procedure.

It’s important to have a plan for emergencies so you and your business can stay productive. When emergencies hit, the keys to making a backup plan work with minimal loss or damage are preparation and communication.

Preparation

Years ago, I worked part-time in a retail store while I was studying for the bar exam. One day when I was working, the power went out in the store. Once it was apparent that the power was going to be out for most of the day, several of my coworkers started speculating that the managers would have let at least some of us go home early. With the power out, the registers weren’t working and we couldn’t ring up customers’ purchases or swipe their credit cards for payment.

Not so fast. We were shocked to find out that the store managers had a backup plan. With an efficiency that still blows my mind today, the store managers pulled out everything we would need to ring up purchases and process credit cards manually. Each cashier was given a solar calculator, sales slips, and a credit card imprinter. For those of you who don’t know what a credit card imprinter is, it is a non-electric, manually-operated piece of equipment that uses 2- or 3-part sales slips to make an imprint of the raised numbers and letters on the face of a credit card.

photo of manual credit card imprinter
A manual credit card imprinter and sales slips

We had everything we needed to continue to ring up purchases. At some point in the past, someone, or several someones, figured out what tools would be needed to ring up customers manually and gathered those tools together in preparation for the day when we might need them to keep the business open.

Lesson: Ask yourself what tools you would need to run your business in an emergency. Get the tools together and put them somewhere accessible, but out of the way of your day-to-day activities.

Communication

Perhaps even more important than the calculators and imprinters was the communication from the managers. Not only did they take the time to show us how to calculate sales tax and use the imprinter but they acknowledged the extraordinary circumstances and reassured us that it was okay if we made mistakes like math errors or listing the products incorrectly on the handwritten receipts. The priority was to keep ringing up customers. Having the correct price or item number was secondary. We were able to keep our store up and running while neighboring stores sent customers away.

Lesson: Communicate the instructions and priorities of your backup plan. Explain what is the priority and what is secondary.

So what’s your plan to keep your business up and running through the unexpected?

3 Questions to Help Find the Best Organizer for You

Which organizer is the right one for you?

Now that February has begun, I have to ask: how are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? If you’re having trouble getting organized or being more productive at work, you should consider hiring a professional organizer or productivity consultant. Hiring an organizing or productivity professional is a significant time and financial investment so here are three things to look for to help you make the right decision. (NOTE: I use the word organizer as an umbrella term covering both professional organizers and productivity consultants.)

Cost – What’s your budget?

The first thing most people want to know is how much it costs to hire a professional organizer or productivity consultant. Unfortunately, the answer is “it depends.” It depends on several factors: what part of the country you’re in, the organizer’s experience level and specialty, and perhaps most importantly, the size and type of project. Rates for experienced organizers in the Houston area ranges from $50 to over $200. There are some organizers who charge by the project instead of hourly. If you find an organizer you like that is beyond your budget, see if they have a blog or YouTube channel where you can get general advice and ideas. Or contact the organizer and let them know your limitations. Many organizers offer DIY or virtual options for those whose budget may not allow for in-person organizing services.

Specialties – What kind of help do you need?

There are two primary types of organizers: Residential and Business. A lot of organizers do both, but some may choose to work in one area exclusively. In addition to residential and business, many organizing and productivity professionals have sub-specialties that they focus on. For example, I’m a business organizer who specializes in technology and digital organization. There are numerous sub-specialties, everything from closets and garages, to team productivity and workplace operations. Any space or life stage you’re in, I can pretty much guarantee there is an organizer who specializes in it.

Fit – What kind of approach or style works best with you?

Fit is perhaps the most often overlooked criteria when hiring an organizer. Organizers not only have different specialties, but we all also have different styles and approaches to the process of helping you become more organized and productive. Talk to the organizer on the phone and get a sense of their personality. Organizer-client relationships depend on trust, so you want an organizer who “gets” you and understands your challenges. This is even more important if you’re dealing with specific challenges like ADHD and hoarding or you’re a creative, Type-B who has rejected all previous attempts to get organized.

If you decide to hire a professional organizer or productivity consultant, answering these questions will help you find the one who is best suited for you and who will help you achieve your goals.

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