Archive for February, 2010

PostHeaderIcon The Domino Effect

Last week, I noticed that water was dripping from the ceiling of my lounge room. I noticed it about 15 minutes after I turned on my ducted air conditioning, seeking relief from the 40 degree heat outside.

Of course, I panicked. My husband was at work, and wouldn’t be home for hours. I couldn’t put the aircon back on, so was stuck in a hot house with my 11 month old son. As I wasn’t 100% sure that it was the aircon causing the leak, I didn’t know who to phone – a roofer or an aircon technician. So instead I phoned my local pest control man (obviously!) who over the years has become a personal friend, and asked him to stick his head into my roof to see what the problem was. Turns out, it was the aircon. He managed to do a band-aid fix on it, so I could at least get some relief from the heat, until we could get a professional out to fix the problem.

Long story short, we had an airconditioning specialist come out this week, and after about an hour of crawling around in my very hot roof, lots of banging, cursing, and thudding, and close to $200 later, the problem was fixed. When I asked the man what had happened up there, he said it was like a domino effect.

One small, very easily avoidable thing, had started a chain reaction that ended with almost catastrophic results. A small problem that would have been detected immediately through regular maintenance caused some of the straps supporting the ceiling unit to fail, which in turn dropped the ceiling unit on an angle, and subsequently the drain tray onto a roof support beam. This in turn knocked the drain pipe away from the drain tray, which in turn caused the drain tray to fill up the emergency tray, which then overflowed into my roof! This caused damage to a load-bearing beam inside my wall, the internal structure of my walls, not to mention the massive water stains and bubbling on my ceiling and lounge room walls, and the subsequent staining of my carpet from said dripping water! So now, as we wait for an insurance assessor to determine the full extent of the damage, I have been beating myself up because this “domino effect” could have been so easily avoided, if I’d just booked an annual aircon service.

The same kind of domino effect could just as easily happen in your business. Quite often, we overlook what we perceive as unnecessary, or unimportant steps, procedures or proecesses, which can result in catastrophic outcomes for our business. Sometimes it pays to have an outside professional come in and assess your business, and help you to create and implement steps that will ensure your business runs smoothly, without any awful surprises.

As an example, do you have Terms and Conditions of Trade documents in place for your business, in the event that you have to chase bad debtors? Many businesses do the work for their clients, and invoice afterwards, which may help to you to attract and retain clients, but what happens when a customer suddenly doesn’t pay? If your customer had signed a Terms & Conditions of Trade document, you would be in a much stronger position to recover money owing to you, than if you didn’t have any formalised documentation. In this situation, the domino effect could very easily bring down your business. Let me show you would could happen if you dodn’t get your clients to sign any formal terms of trade documentation:

You provide product / service to your client –> late paying or non-paying clients –> hours and hours spent chasing payment –> restricted cash flow due to late or non payment –> unable to pay your suppliers –> suppliers refusing to supply your business due to non-payment –> customers go elsewhere because you can’t supply –> income diminishes –> business closes!

Yet something so catastrophic could have been easily avoided, if you had just taken one simple step when setting up your business, and had a professional draft up some Terms of Trade documentation for you. A small outlay at the beginning could have saved your business.

This is only one example, and whilst this is obviously a worst-case scenario, my air conditioner certainly did get me thinking about how, if I’d just done something so simple, I could have avoided so much inconvenience and cost. So I’ve already booked my annual service for next summer!

Has anything similar ever happened to you in your business? Have you looked back, after a particularly bad experience, and thought to yourself “if only I’d done xyz, I wouldn’t be in this situation now”? Share your stories with us, so that other business owners can learn from your lessons.

If you’d like to arrange for a professional to take a look at your business, let me know, because I would be happy to introduce you to people who could potentially save you a lot of heartache down the track. You invest so much time and money into your business, don’t you think it’s worth protecting?

Till next time,

Lia…

PostHeaderIcon A new beginning

Well, I’ve finally done it. After about 2 years of procrastinating, dipping my toes in the water, then running for the hills again, I’ve finally decided to get “with the times” and learn more about blogging sites, and more specifically how to create websites using WordPress.

Up until now (today in fact), my website was hand made by me, using Photoshop. It took days and days of designing, slicing, uploading, testing, more slicing, more uploading and restesting, until it was finally right. It looked good, but it was tedious to do any updates on, so I avoided doing them all together. Then all of my Photoshop files got corrupted, so I couldn’t update my site even if I wanted to, at least not without recreating everything.

So this weekend I took the plunge, and got fully immersed in WordPress. And I have to say, it’s really not as scary as I thought it was going to be. In fact, I love it!

And so I’ve recreated my website in WordPress. I can easily update it, add to it, take things away, or change the whole look, within seconds. And now that I’ve started this new learning journey, I’m really excited to keep learning more. Because like any business, to grow, you have to keep learning.

When I first started out, I offered newsletter design & distribution services. And all people wanted were paper newsletters, printed and mailed out. Now, it’s uncommon to get requests for this kind of thing. Instead it’s all about electronic newsletters, email distribution, database management. And I had to decide to either stop offering the service, or update my skills to be able to accommodate this need. I chose to learn.

At least once a year, it’s important to take a good, long look at your business. Refer back to your business plan, and ask yourself some questions. Are you where you want to be? If not, why not? Is your offering still meeting your client’s needs? Are there steps you could take to improve? Do you need to move out of your comfort zone, and learn something new, to meet the demands of your target market?

We know that the fastest way to ruin a business is to stand still, so don’t take your clients for granted, because if you don’t move with the times to offer them what they want, they’ll find someone else who does. Never stop learning. Your clients will thank you for it.

Till next time,

Lia…