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Smith: Expect the unexpected

POSTED: January 20, 2008 5:04 a.m.

Be prepared. Expect the unexpected. Don’t get caught watching the paint dry. Take care of your own knitting. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Pulling the fat out of the fire. Plan on how to cross the bridge before you arrive.
These are only a few of the reminders that tell us the same message everyday. Not unlike what our mother told us countless times: Wear clean underwear every day just in case you are in a wreck.
The unknown danger or a crisis is lurking just around the corner. At the most inopportune time, trouble will rear its ugly face and attack us.
Funny thing about trouble. It seems to operate on its own timetable without regard for anyone else. And it does so with a total disregard for any plans or time management ideas that were in place for the business. Just how prepared is your business for the unexpected?
Who would suspect that a fire would ravage a building? One of the most trusted and loyal employees in the company decides to go to work for the guys down the street. The shipment expected to arrive tomorrow in Cornelia was left on a loading dock yesterday in Fitchburg, Mass. The bank deposit wasn’t made before 2 p.m., so it will not be credited to the account until the next day.
Preparation is applicable to finances, personnel, inventory, competition, distribution, operations or simply a power outage. Appearing in various disguises, shapes and sizes, trouble makes no pretense about its goal. That is to create havoc and headaches for you.
To use a military term, you as a business owner should plan to utilize “pre-emptive” measures as potential problems appear on the horizon.
Simply stated, take care of it before it takes care of you.
If you have a crisis crop up without warning, make sure that you have a contingency plan ready to put into place. Take no chances or prisoners when it comes to the well-being of your business. If you don’t protect your business, no one else will.
Survey the various parts of your business. If you have key personnel, include them in the survey as well as mapping out a plan. Plan ahead to know who can take over what tasks should you lose an employee.
Think about what the most bizarre and worst crisis for your business might be. Now, if this crisis took place, what would you do?
Study other businesses to see if they have developed such a strategy. In addition, research a trade association that you are a member of to find out what information is available regarding contingency plans for emergencies.
Yes, an exercise of this type will involve time and man power. Perhaps having such a plan in place is not on the “A” list of projects to get accomplished.
The chances are that such a terrible occurrence will never happen to your business.
Then again, you probably just finished writing a check for your business insurance premium a few minutes ago.

J.C. Smith is a consultant for the Gainesville district office of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, 770-531-5681. His column appears Tuesdays and at


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