Tuesday, July 3, 2007

5 Tips for back-up plans in a small market

In small markets such as Curacao and the Caribbean, even larger corporations are often small. There is "one of each". That is: one KEY person for each function. When that person is gone, the activities stop or go low profile. What to do?

Last month my most important client was Cura-Peska, a specialty store selling high quality fishing equipment, based in Curacao. It is my dad's post-retirement activity. So, it was a father's day gift and the plug above is well-deserved.
The store has existed since 1992. A few years ago my dad spent time helping my brother build his home and went low profile with the store. This is characteristic for small businesses: when the owner is sick, becomes a parent, divorces, breaks a few fingers, cares for children or parents, etc. the business goes low profile.

In most larger companies in small market, when the key person in a department is sick, becomes a parent, divorces, breaks a few fingers, etc. the department also goes low profile.

The key is to plan for it. I searched the web for tips and found nothing. Here is my own take:
  1. Face the reality. Know that there will be a moment that you (or your key person) cannot be there, planned or unplanned.
  2. Prepare for shut-down. What will you do when that moment arrives? Can you afford to "shut down" activities? Can the activities be reduced? How will customers react to reduced activities? Can or should you tell customers that activities will be reduced? Do you have your priorities for the next day, next week, next quarter listed on paper in a prominent place so that someone can take over, in an emergency, if needed?
  3. Prepare for come-back. What will you do to stage a come-back? What will it take to prepare? How long will it take to yield results?
  4. Reach out and share. Entrepreneurs are often independent spirits and live in relative isolation when it comes to business specifics. Employees of larger corporation live in their isolated "silo's" for whatever reasons. Reach out and share some of the specifics of your job. Interest someone in what you are doing, teach them what you are doing. Remember, if nothing else, you cannot be promoted if there is no one to do the job you want to leave.
  5. If you do not have a back-up in house, look for one outside. It can be someone who has time on his hands, or is flexible with her time. It can be someone who has previous experience in the industry or just with running a business. It can be someone you reach (or already have) an agreement with or just someone you have in mind (and whose whereabouts you follow). Someone to take over completely or just some responsibilities.

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