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Lessons Learnt From Sailing Part 3 – Preparation or Failure?

Part of the safety briefing when I sail is the 3 Fs – fire, flood and falling overboard.

Any one of those events could be disastrous, especially with an inexperienced crew on board who are more likely to panic if things start to go wrong. We go through the drill as to what to do should any of those events occur so that we are prepared. Ultimately we are being told what to do to potentially save our own lives and those of our fellow crew members if something happens which we have never experienced before.

So it’s important stuff!

(We also have the 3 Ps – which is all you are allowed to dispose of through the WC. I’ll let you fill those in for yourself…)

In business how many times have you heard the wisdom ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. And here’s another saying – ‘good luck is the child of preparation’. They may sound like platitudes – but actually both resonate. On the boat if we are not prepared for the 3Fs we won’t know what to do and the ensuing confusion and panic could be disastrous .

In business you need to be prepared for what lies ahead; that preparation and planning is critical for so many aspects of a business not limited to the financials. Planning for change and business interruption are surely up there with the most important decisions business leaders have faced this year. Preparation and planning are the keys to success – and not just for the knowns.

If you are prepared for the business equivalent of the 3 Fs, the unpredicted events which are beyond your control, when things don’t go according to plan you have a strategy for dealing with them. If your crew have their safety briefing, if you have prepared them for what to do in difficult circumstances then you increase the likelihood of surviving – and then thriving.

Even in normal times you might be wanting to grow, diversify, scale up, scale down – and to do that you will need to implement change. And we are certainly not in normal times now!

So what can you do?

Review and document your processes – make sure you are not dependent on one or a few individuals, have safety cover in case of unavoidable absence. Map everything out and highlight the pain points, duplications – and vulnerabilities. Set up documented systems for workflows, which other people then can pick up and run with. You could even invest in a automated process management tool which can be used for everything from operations, to HR, to lead management and document chasing. (And, as an aside, that will also help with new starts and onboarding – you have a proper process manual!)

Review your IT set up – a lot of businesses struggled in the lockdown because of legacy in-house systems, and office-based hardware, I believe laptops became like gold dust! Not everything can be done remotely – but a lot can. And of course, that includes your accounts.

If you have a cloud-based system such as Xero you simply don’t need to be in the office to process sales, purchases, expenses, produce reports etc etc. From using automated document capture to process supplier bills – many if not most of which can be received electronically from the supplier – to processing expense claims from team members spread over a wide geographic area, to producing and sharing reports for the management team – all of this can be done without sitting at a desk in the accounts office.

So often I hear that ‘cloud accounting isn’t right for my business’ – but how do you know if you haven’t explored it? Now more than ever I would suggest is the time to explore the possibilities. You will be surprised at the difference a well-implemented system will make to you, and you will be in a better position to face the 3 Fs, should they arise.

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