Most self-employed people work on their own, they don’t tend to have a team to call upon when the printer dies or the filing needs to be done. You are the IT, sales and accounts departments. But what happens if you couldn’t carry out your work, what would happen to your clients?
A visit to A&E
Almost two years ago, became ill and it was the first time since becoming self-employed. It started off with mild headaches but by the end of the week, I found it difficult to concentrate; looking at anything bright was difficult (i.e. my laptop), my head was constantly pounding and the pain got worse whenever I moved my head. I began sweating and by Friday, neck stiffness was another ailment to my ever-growing list. Despite this, I was still working but by Friday lunchtime, I couldn’t carry on any more. I sent a message to my clients to say that I really wasn’t feeling well at all and that I would have to log off. Luckily, I was up to date so my clients weren’t left in the lurch (it was a Friday afternoon). I’m still not sure how I was able to ensure nothing was outstanding.
After answering the exhaustive list of questions from NHS Direct, I was advised by the doctor on-call that I should go to A&E immediately, he even offered to phone for an ambulance but I refused. He mentioned meningitis on the phone but it didn’t register with me until I was in the taxi. Although the waiting time in the waiting room stated four hours, I was seen incredibly quickly and the nurses and doctors who looked after me were friendly, quick and efficient. I was only in hospital for about five hours got me thinking; if it turned out that I was seriously ill and needed to stay in hospital for a few days, what would happen to my clients?
Need a plan
I had heard people mention the ‘get hit by a bus’ plan but it was something I had never really considered. Before I started my business, I was an employee so if someone was off sick, it was the responsibility of the line manager to share out the workload amongst the team.
What’s your plan?
After I was discharged from hospital, I posed the question to other small business owners and asked how many of them had a back-up plan; some said it wasn’t something they had considered, some said it was on their ‘to do’ list, only a handful said they had a plan in place. By raising the question in the group, it made a lot of them think about the seriousness of what would happen to their clients and their businesses should anything happen to them.
Another small business story
I got in touch with a local company to clean the guttering and windows. He sent me a quote, which I accepted and waited for him to get in touch with his availability. I had used this company before and found them to be reliable so it was very strange that I hadn’t had a reply from him. A week later, I received an email from him informing me that he had snapped a part of his Achilles tendon and, as a result, had to cancel all his work.
I wasn’t desperate for the work to be carried out so I decided I would wait for him to recover. Since his email, two weeks had passed and I was surprised to receive a call from him checking to see if I still wanted the work to be carried out. I confirmed I did and he said he would be round in about an hour. He turned up with his ankle in a brace.
I mentioned that I am writing a blog about back-up plans and asked him whether he had one. He said he didn’t and wasn’t in a position to lose any work, he didn’t have anyone else to carry out the work on his behalf. Regardless of the pain he was in, he had to continue working. He also mentioned that he had suffered a heart attack a few years ago and was advised by doctors to take quite a few months off to recuperate. He was back to work within three weeks of being discharged from hospital. He had no choice but to work.
If you don’t have a back-up plan, it may be time to seriously consider your options and put a plan in place.