January 10, 2012

Small Businesses Have to Build Their Own Safety Net

I run a small business, which means I’m always scanning the horizon for threats. In some ways, this isn’t a very nice way to live one’s life; it can seem as if you’re always focused on the bad possibilities instead of the good.

Still, who can take a chance? If my landlord sells the building, I’ll need new space for my office. It would be idiotic not to look around now and then so I know what’s out there. And while I’m on the topic of office space, what if the roof leaks or the windows blow in during a storm? I may not have to make the repairs, but I could find myself unable to use the space while the repairs are being done. Looks like I’d better check my insurance to see what coverage they offer for that.

See what I mean? I haven’t even started on the viruses, or data loss, or any of the zillion things that can happen to my computer setup. And what if there’s a recession and it gets harder to find business? Oops. Looks like that one has already happened.

One thing I do know, since my business exists to help people who are unemployed, is that in my state, business owners like myself are not eligible for unemployment checks. Since it’s unemployment "insurance," if you (or your employers) don’t make payments into the system while you’re working, you can’t take checks out of the system if the work ends.

Okay, I can deal with that. But understanding that people can lose a business in a heartbeat has made me extra vigilant about building my own safety net. Since I’m not able to put much cash aside, I’ve decided the net should be made of skills and networking. On the skills side, I’ve kept up a sideline of sorts, writing blogs, while also committing myself to learn a second language – Spanish – so I can improve my chances of working elsewhere if I need to. On the networking side, I’ve added new work relationships each year so that I can shorten the path to a new job if I were to need one on short notice.

How about you? Even if you don’t run a business, the question remains: Are you building a safety net in case of unemployment? Cash, skills or networking – choose at least one to be your fallback.

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