50 Business Challenges: No. 8 – Drink Habits

Fun though it can be, alcohol is a depressant. As you know, used wrongly, it can harm your health as well as lead to dependency.

Many people have a drink as soon as they get home, or after putting the children to bed. No harm in that. But the interesting question is whether the important thing is the alcohol, the transition from work to home, or the chance to relax with your other half.

If you truly cannot face the rest of the day without alcohol, then this should ring alarm bells. If it is symbolic, a change of clothes may get rid of the working day, or share some high quality chocolate with a loved one.

Just a thought.


Undercover Boss Lessons

My favorite TV depiction of business is the Undercover Boss franchise. The Apprentice looks artificial, and even Dragons’ Den palls after a time.

The premise of the programme is that the boss dons a disguise and goes under cover in their own company posing as perhaps an unemployed worker testing out possible careers for a TV programme. Because they are not there as the boss, they obtain a much clearer idea of what is going on in the company. Of course, the company chooses the locations, so it is unlikely that they would (as it were) show the horsemeat going into the lasagne!

Generally, the programme shows responsible and committed workers, many of whom a struggling with problems, or have taken on commitments outside work, such as coaching a children’s sports team.

Two lessons can generally be drawn. One is that the boss is generally not very good at the front line work. The other is that workers are often working hard at doing something inefficiently, when the company could provide an easy solution. This could be as simple as providing sat nav to drivers.

Versions of the show from the USA and Australia add a cultural twist.

Search the schedules of Cannel 4 and its offshoots – you may get some useful insight.


50 Business Challenges: Cherish Your Receptionist

First impressions matter, and for many their first impression of your firm will be given by the receptionist. So ensuring that they have the right personality and presentation is vital. Training on dealing with clients efficiently is needed, as is an effective system, which needs to take account of the people in the system as well.

That much is obvious. But however good your receptionist is, and however well trained, they have to be there. Therefore, their backup for any absences needs to be just as good.

Further, a good receptionist can be an effective salesperson, through knowing what the firm does (and does not do) and spotting openings during conversations with clients.

Make the most of them!

50 Business Challenges: Who Owes You?

Cash is king, particularly in the current climate. Do you know how much you are likely to collect from clients, and over what period?

If you do not already do so as a matter of course, go through your aged debtors list, and find out how much is realistically payable. Chase sooner rather than later, initially as a polite reminder, but later in a more businesslike way. If you have business clients, they will not respect advice from someone who does not manage the lifeblood of their own business.

Write off what you have to. It is painful, but at least you will be left with real figures.


50 Business Challenges: Continuity

What happens if your premises burn down? Or you have a heart attack, the IT system crashes or you get flooded? Will your business continue?

You need a plan to cope. There are consultants who are experts in business continuity planning who can help (this does not include me) but they can be expensive.

I doubt though that it is possible to create the perfect plan, and it is better to take even a few steps to reduce risk rather than none at all.

The Challenge for today: check that your data is backed up and test whether it can be restored. (You may need to get someone to do this, to ensure that current data is safe). If not, urgently pursue a working backup system.

Four other points to start with:

Big risk – ideally, brainstorm all the possible risks to your business, and score them on likelihood of occurrence, and on consequences of occurrence. In other words, some things are not very likely, but can devastate your business. Pick some relatively likely events with serious consequences, and plan how to deal with managing the risk and the consequences. For example, if your premises are next to a river, what are your plans for a flood? You might plan to move all papers and computers off the floor in the event of a flood warning – who will do it, and how yill you contact them. What happens if you simply cannot access your premises for a week?

Cash – the lifeblood of business. If the worst happens will you know who owes you money and who has paid? Or indeed who your own creditors are? What’s the plan to deal with this?

Where – if your premises burned down tonight, where would you set up tomorrow? Could you operate from the kitchen table, or are there serviced offices nearby? How is anyone going to know where you are?

People – they are easy to forget in this process. An automatic backup of their brains is not possible! So sharing and writing down plans is important. Insurance is also possible, so life insurance on important people can at least fund a replacement.

This is not close to a comprehensive plan, but only a starting point. Add to your plan, and keep it under regular review on a specific timetable.

And having drawn up a plan, ensure that a copy is kept offsite by the person who has to put it into effect. It’s not much use if it has turned to ash like the rest of the office!