As computer business owners, we are so involved in the day to day of our operations that we forget to really think of our business as a whole. This can prove to be a huge blind spot.
Sometimes we have partners that we rely on for some of our core products and/or services. However, there are times they may change their pricing, eliminate a product series, or worse, close their doors overnight. It can happen to anyone.
It happened to me just a little over two months ago. The answering service I used ended up shutting down overnight, leaving me high and dry without any fall-back plan.
Through this ordeal, I learned a few things. Here are my tips on how to handle what could be a crucial time for your business.
I know it’s easier said than done. However, acting on emotion has its downfalls, like making impromptu decisions without thinking. Do what you can to allow the emotion to fade, take a walk, call a fellow colleague, etc.
In my scenario I had to power off my cell phone, log off my PC and take a stroll before I decided my next move. You may think this is wasting precious time, especially if the situation is urgent, but the time invested here will help alleviate major headaches.
Now that you’re in a better mindset it’s time to assess the situation.
First, implement a temporary solution to put in place for the time being. Maybe it’s a trial with another vendor that you’ve been looking at, or a pay-as-you-go service (no contract). This should help you to keep afloat.
For me, that meant forwarding all phone calls to my cell phone. The main number was still owned by me so it was easy to jump in the dashboard and re-route the calls.
Secondly, if this affects your clients, ensure some type of communication is sent to them as soon as possible. The worse thing that can happen is trying to figure out your next move and have clients contacting you to inquire about the situation. Transparency is key and each scenario is different, but if you have time to implement a proper solution, take the time to do so. If dire, find a way to plug the hole in the ship accordingly.
Now that you have a temporary fix in place, it’s time to research. Start looking into other vendors. Assess the value they provide, the rates they offer, and most importantly their current customer’s feedback. You can find a lot of fellow business owners share their opinions on forums such as Technibble and ACRBO. These prove to be rich communities with valuable information and feedback on different vendors. They also often have partnerships with some vendors where you can get even more value.
This is an important piece of the puzzle, because you might make a commitment to a product that sounds great and find that it wasn’t the right fit for your company’s needs. This is why you want to try out a reasonable amount of vendors to see what fits well for you.
Don’t feel pressured in to closing the deal at the first call. If they want to help you grow they will need to prove to you that they have your best interests at heart by allowing you to trial their services.
Testing and Execution
Once you have made the decision on which service or product to use, start implementing it slowly. This allows you to catch any items or issues you may have missed during the research and demoing process. You may also want to come up with a back-up plan to mitigate the problems that could arrise if something similar happens with this new service.
With every situation, there is a lesson to learn. Here a few that I’ve walked away with:
- Keep different operational aspects of your business with separate service companies instead of using an all-in-one offering
- Ensure you have master access to all of your customer data and important information to avoid being locked out
- Have a temporary backup in place for a product that’s hard switch over (i.e. Remote software or RMM)
Again there are more ways to cope with a crucial situation. However, this helped me understand the true difference between a Business Operator vs a Business owner.