Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Is Your Business Safe From - You? The Unexpected? Illness? by TalyaGoding

GUEST POST: Talya from Made With Love-Cards And Crafts shares her wisdom about minimising  impact on your business when things don't go as "planned".

"There are many possibilities for things that can wrong in our businesses, BUT are you prepared for when things do go wrong?"

Not only from my personal experience, but through my studies and qualifications in business and management, I have found it is always a great idea to have a contingency plan in place.

Think of it as a back-up plan or as your game plan for the unexpected. Either way you need to have some sort of plan in place, especially when you are doing project management.

Wait did I just hear you say?  "I don't think I need this, or it won't apply to me or my business."   You will be surprised at how important it is, so before you stop reading here, just keep reading to see why it is important to have a back-up plan!

So you have a handmade business? 
That is fantastic and massive congrats!

You work endless hours to create a product, to do the photographing and editing, PR and marketing, you answer a lot of customer enquiries, AS WELL AS being a mum, a wife, AND running and managing a household. I bet you have had many a sleepless nights while you were up working hard to get your business off the ground, or you gone to bed in the very early hours of the morning after pushing to complete an item to a deadline.

So YOU work hard but what happens if something unexpected happens and you don't have a contingency in place, what will you do? Will all your hard work and slaving hours into your business be for naught?

I would like to say No, but without understanding or knowing the importance of a risk management plan it well and truly could be!

There are two different types of contingency plans that I use in my everyday in my business. I don't mean that everyday there is a use for the back-up plan, but I have it there just in case.

Remember that not only will having a contingency in place help you, but it will also be beneficial to your client and in most cases will actually protect your customer service!

I have one for my overall business and then I have one for individual projects, such as each individual order I receive.

I have a terms and conditions document that is supplied to customers upon placement of a custom order. Some have told me it’s too long and detailed, but it helps all parties to understand what is expected of them with the order and explains why certain things are done the way they are.

I also ask customers to contact me approximately 8-12 weeks BEFORE their party.  This will ensure that there will be plenty of time and notice for the order in the event that I am off sick for a week, or if there is a natural disaster and I am unable to send or receive packages crucial for the completion of the projects. But it will also to help me ensure that there will be time to act if something goes wrong. This could be underestimating the materials used to complete an order and have to await the arrival of more cardstock, glues, cutting mats, printer ink, blades etc. I always try to have one, if not two packets of the item there to replenish my stocks, but sometimes that can not always the case and I do run out.

An example of recently where I enforced a contingency plan was when the glue I use was being discontinued and a red version of glue was being introduced and replacing the clear glue I use and need. It took me over a year to find and trust in this one specific glue used on all my projects. So I asked everyone I knew to head to their local store and purchase whatever stocks of the glue this one specific supplier had and post them to me. People thought I was nuts and didn't need that much glue! But trust me I do! One friend ended up arranging 264 of the glues! But I am worried about what happens when I run out as I can't seem to find anywhere to purchase these from direct from the wholesaler.

But I am not nuts or crazy or going overboard, because I NEED glue! Can't do much papercrafting without glue now can I?

I remember once, when I didn't have a backup plan in place I had not long gotten my awesome Silhouette Cutting machine, and it was a Thursday night, I was buried in a stack of orders I was frantically trying to get out and had a deadline with this order due Friday. I was half way through when oh behold, my cutting blade just snapped! I didn't know what to do, I sat there crying for hours and the closest online store that stocked these was on the Gold Coast, in Queensland, a good 5 hour drive one way! I had only just had my machine for a couple of weeks and was told blades last for up to 6 months, so why would I think to have a back-up of blades? Well after that fiasco I ordered 5 blades and ensured I always had at least 4 on hand at all times. Don't worry I didn’t make the drive to the Gold Coast, I just had to explain to my customer that her order would be delayed a couple of days.  Thankfully, they were amazing and understanding, but didn't help that I was angry for not having a back-up supply.

The same principle of a contingency plan can work in your sewing business, whether it is knowing somewhere that can service your machine in the event that it stops working, or ordering double of the fabric needed for a single project in case you cut or sew it wrong, or having back up supplies of needles/threads/rotary cutters etc.

In the even that you are unable to complete a job, whether it is from becoming too overwhelmed and stressed, becoming sick, or something beyond your control has happened, it is always great to know if someone can help you and your customers out, whether it is a friend or family member stepping up to the task, or if you contract your work to another designer.

Let's think about the more tangible risks to your business.

INTERNET-What happens if your Internet is not able to be provided for an unknown period of time? Your provider might not be able to organise anyone to come out to your place of business to fix the issue. Do you have a back-up? I have one of the Telstra wireless broadband toggles (pre-paid) that I take with me on any business trips. Even if the place is supposed to have Internet  what happens if it doesn't work and you’re stuck with no Internet access and you run an Internet based business?  Bit of a pickle isn't it? I know when I went to hospital for 4 weeks, I took my laptop as the hospital had wireless broadband available. But when I got there, it was available but wouldn't connect to my room as it was too far from the receiver. So I had my trusty prepaid Internet that I was able to connect my laptop, phone and iPad to, all so I could still keep in contact with my customers and to try and keep things running as smoothly as possible. One thing you don't want to do is have customers contact you and they feel you are ignoring or do not care about them, which isn't the case as you just don't have Internet access. But all the same it will improve your customer's experiences if you are prepared and have a back-up.

INSURANCE- What happens if there is a natural disaster and your house floods or if your house burns down in a horrible fire and you lose everything? What will you do or manage things if you don't have insurance? I am not saying that insurance will make everything okay but it will certainly make things easier for you. Insurance can even  be income protection insurance or insurance on your credit cards or debts. What happens if you are unable to work, would your family be able to eat? These are things that although we don't want to think about we need to be prepared for.

I can guarantee no matter what business you have, you will need a contingency plan for risk management of your projects and business.

Notes from The Handmade Business Mentor:
Risk Management is about identifying all possible risks to you and your business (which affects your ability to earn an income or damage your business) and then deciding on plans/processes/insurances to mitigate that risk. If you are a Sole Trader you do need to think about how your business continues or how you communicate to your customers if it doesn't. 
Some links to further help you with Risk Management:
Risk Management Links for Australian States & Territories
Risk Management Portal 

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