The Disaster Recovery Plan


Let me introduce you to George. Good friend, building a successful business, and keen sportsman – but like many of us, not quite as young, fit and active as he once was. Or would like to believe he is.

Three weeks ago George was playing five-a-side. As he does every Friday afternoon. Then a pint of Theakstons and straight home for the weekend.

Or on that particular Friday, straight up to A&E. “I’ve still no idea how it happened, Ed. One minute I’m stretching for the ball. The next I’m in agony. And my world is turned upside down.”

Tib and fib as the medics say – both broken about six inches above the ankle.

George needed an operation. His scrap metal value has increased considerably. Sadly his business has gone in the opposite direction.

“A week in bed, a week on the settee. Serious levels of painkillers. And I’m exhausted. But worst of all, the business is suffering.”

George employs two staff: he’s at that key point where his business is just about to take off – where 2015 was going to be a year of serious growth. But one mis-timed tackle and the business has stalled. George can’t drive. He lives in a small village. Getting into the office is impractical: seeing clients is next to impossible.

His business will ultimately survive – but as George says, “it’ll be feeling the effects of the broken leg long after I’ve had the screws out.”

The conversation made me think. After all, it isn’t that long ago that I cheerfully cycled into a tree. At the time I didn’t have Julia and Jackie: a few inches to the side and I’d have put myself – and TAB York – out of action for a long time.

We have a disaster recovery plan for virtually everything. All our data is backed up in the cloud. The only thing that’s not backed up in the cloud is our bodies. As I surveyed the wreckage of my face and realised how lucky I’d been a sobering thought struck me. I wasn’t really building a business. If your ‘business’ can be derailed by a tree root or a bad tackle, it’s a lifestyle, not a business.

To build a business you need to build a team – and you need to delegate to your team. That way your business gets continuity – even if yours is temporarily interrupted

As I said in the Four Week Test at the beginning of the year: one day your business is going to be sold. Building a team goes a long way to guaranteeing that you sell when you want to – not when you’re forced to.

Back to George – and thankfully to a silver lining. “My concentration levels have dropped off a cliff. Even daytime TV seems a bit complicated. But I’ve learned one really important lesson. I can manage maybe two to three hours work during the day. And I still make a To Do list every day because, well, that’s just what I do.

“But because I’m only able to work for a short time, I have to do what’s most important. No more patting myself on the back for ‘quick wins.’ No more crossing six unimportant things off and thinking I’ve had a productive morning.”

Amen to that. In many ways that’s exactly the same point as my blog on recording your time. Just as Toggl has forced me to acknowledge the fact that I used to ‘faff’ and fritter time away, so George’s broken leg has brought him face-to-face with the irrelevance of most quick wins.

With that I’ll wish you an extremely safe weekend. As for George, he’ll return to work wiser and more focused, some time around January. Just in time for the ice and snow…

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One comment

  1. simonjhudson · December 5, 2014

    Scary isn’t it?
    With an added complication that we entrepreneurs are inclined to do slightly more risky things, partly because that’s who we are and partly because we sometimes need to escape from the pressures and stresses of the businesses that we are building.
    For myself I play squash and injure myself at least once a year. I ski in the winter and have narrowly avoided a George type fate on almost every occasion. I’ve jumped out of aeroplanes, climbed rocks and done crazy things on water. I drive a 40-year-old sports car rather too fast…

    I have no intention to change who I am in this regard, so the wise thing to do is to have a backup plan. As a business we worked hard to ensure that we can do most of what we do regardless of where we are. We’ve invested in technologies and working practices that give us access to all our information, documents and business processes from anywhere that we have Internet connection. We require all our staff to be present on Lync (Skype for business) during their working hours and we encourage our clients to allow us to meet with them remotely wherever possible. On occasions where I have been stuck at home, whether through rare illness, self-inflicted injury or the vagaries of the weather, business has carried on with relatively little effect (even if I haven’t been at my best and my working hours are reduced).

    Equally, as we have grown, we’ve worked hard to ensure that no one person is the sole possessor of critical business skills. We try to ensure that our team are multitalented and able to step into different roles if the occasion demands it. This has not always been possible and it is only now, in the last year when our team has grown substantially, that we feel confident that we have most of the bases covered. Key man insurance has been a useful tool to help us sleep at night in the interim.

    Finally, and this is part of Ed’s thesis, we’ve come to appreciate the absolute value of hiring great people and putting them in positions of responsibility. Not only does that make our business more efficient and sellable, but should the day come when foolish bravado exceeds ability then I know that the business can continue to thrive in whatever absence that creates.

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