The Three Little Entrepreneurs

Business Noir Series – Tales from the Shadow Side

The Three Little Entrepreneurs and the Big Bad Change

What happens if you get run over by a bus? Does your business have a contingency plan to cover emergencies and disaster recovery needs? This "tale from the shadow side" explores why preparing your business for the worst can be the wisest course of action to take.

Once upon a time, there were three entrepreneurs. They all had successful small businesses. They were friends and tried to support each other whenever they could. Business was profitable even though there had been rumors that a Big Bad Change was coming. The friends discussed their businesses over wings and beer.

Three entrepreneurs story - Mr. Straw

"It shouldn't affect me too badly," said Mr. Straw, owner of Straw IT. "We have enough business to ride this out if it comes." He grinned confidently and helped himself to a celery stick with blue cheese dressing.

Three entrepreneurs - Ms. Stick

Ms. Sticks of Sticks Manufacturing LLC said, "We are okay for now. We just finished our yearly retreat and came back with a terrific business plan for this year." She dipped her wing in buffalo sauce.

Three entrepreneurs - Mr. Brick

Charlie Brick, the owner of Brick's Retail, looked at his friends. "We just finished our yearly evaluation and decided we needed a disaster plan."

He looked shocked as his friends burst into laughter.

 "What?" he asked. "Don't you ever think about the worst that could happen?"

Mr. Straw and Ms. Sticks looked at their friend as they shook their heads. "With the number of projects currently in our backlog, a disaster plan is a waste of time." Said Mr. Straw.

Ms. Sticks shook her head. "Our product has become increasingly popular. The manufacturing sites are working hard to keep ahead of our orders. This is going to be a banner year. At this rate, the worst that could happen is we fall a little behind. That will cause the price to rise. We are in a great position."

"Yes, but what happens if you get run over by a bus?" Charlie asked.

Ms. Sticks ordered another round of micro-brews. She turned to Charlie. "We are entrepreneurs. We face risks every day. Why would we plan for failure?"

You probably have the gist of the story by now. The Big Bad Change came, and both Straw IT and Stick Manufacturing LLC faced issues they couldn't easily overcome. Brick's Retail hunkered down and followed their contingency plan. It wasn't easy, and it hurt, but Charlie didn't go out of business like his friends.

2020 sits in my mind as the year that asked, "What happens if you get run over by a bus?" It reminded me that acknowledging the worst that might happen prepares the way for the best to happen.

Why discuss contingency plans now? Because this isn't over, and while having an emergency plan isn't a guarantee that your business will survive, preparing for the worst doesn't mean we're giving up. We are in a unique situation with a year of experience behind us. Now is the time for hindsight. The question, "What's the worst that can happen?" has at least a partial answer.

Take your time, review 2020 and your business challenges, write them down. Now take another look at the solutions you created. Were they quick bandaids? Did you go back later and improve them? If you did, can they be improved even more? If you didn't, what could improve them?

What does a contingency plan entail? Whatever you think is essential. The list below offers a place to start.

  • How much money do you need to keep the doors open?
  • What happens if you go waylaid by injury or illness?
  • What about protecting your essential data like client data and billing information? Do you have offsite storage for a backup for proprietary information?
  • Will your employees work from home?
  • How long will this last?
  • What’s your plan if critical vendors | suppliers or partners bite the dust?

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg. You have many more. At the least, write them all down. Get together with your friends and fellow entrepreneurs and discuss this with them. Get their ideas too. There is strength in numbers.

Honestly, while I understood the reasoning behind the “What happens if you get run over by a bus?” question, I never expected to apply the emergency measures in our contingency plan. Taking the time to acknowledge what worked and what didn’t, is part of this years planning. The question “What’s the worst that can happen?” has become more vital.

Robynne Davis

Robynne Davis is Executive Director at Xylina SPC, a woman owned, Washington Social Purpose Corporation with an emphasis on social justice and environmental responsibility. She also is the board Secretary for the Oregon Small Business Fair.

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