The other day, I was having “one of those days.” The dish towel got caught on the cabinet knob somehow and ripped. Trying to put it back, it slipped off and fell in the food waste container. I went to get some of my allergy pills, sneezed, and dumped them all on the floor.
The thing is, not long before that, I’d had another “one of those days” wherein two different people stole stuff (flowers in one case, and fruit in the other) from my yard, and not in the “feet still on the sidewalk” kind of distance, but fully trespassing first in order to take stuff from our garden. There was the other-people’s-dogs leaving little gifts for us in the grass. And the bed frame collapsing. And the ants invading the living room. And on and on.
In fact, “one of those days” seemed to stretch back in an almost unbroken series to nearly the beginning of the year.
All this happens in business, too, of course.
Clients cancel at the last minute. The tax bill is higher than expected, just as everyone starts paying late, seemingly in coordination with one another. You break your foot and need surgery just days before you’re due to be the speaker at a conference on the other side of the country. People unexpectedly dispute charges on their bill. The copier dies. The shipment of materials for the next batch doesn’t arrive. The next shipment does arrive, but it turns out to be an empty box or the wrong item. The roof springs a leak. Your site gets hacked. Your email server goes down. The Internet slows to a crawl just as you need to transfer a ton of data, or upload the new video, or download your presentation. The tiny screen on the printer demands that you replace the magenta and yellow toner cartridges (which you’re out of and cost $100 each) before you can print the black-and-white documents you need for this afternoon’s event.
And yes, all of those have either happened to me or to a business owner I know, most in the last year.
Individually, each might be relatively minor. But they stack. I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several attack me at once.”
The lesson here is not to try and make these things not happen, because they will. Sure, make sure you’ve got good procedures and policies in place to minimize the things that could be prevented, but there’s always something else.
What I try to do is build flexibility into my system. I include contingencies in my procedures. I work to have a cushion of both time and money for the unforeseen stretch of time (months? really?) of downturn or rough times or the occasional emergency. I figure the more my system can give and flex, and the bigger the cushion, the longer I can make it.
But I gotta say…2016 is getting a little ridiculous. Is it just me, or has it been one of those days pretty much all year?
Image credit: Théodore Géricault’s “Raft of the Medusa” At least I don’t know of anyone who practiced survival cannibalism this year so far…shipwrecks are a bit beyond “one of those days.”