Category Archives: Business Success

Contingency Planning – At The Highest Level

Well, here we are. In the USA, we are at the beginning of an unprecedented event in our lives: the pandemic COVID-19.

A key phrase I heard (which is definitely ringing true): Life as we know it will change.

Again, it has only begun!

Next, the country will move more towards ensuring critical services (emergency response, healthcare workers, grocery stores and gas stations) remain available, while at the same time a complete lockdown is considered.

If this isn’t real to you yet, it is about to become VERY real.

At this juncture, there is no time for, or benefit from, spending ANY energy laying blame or politicizing this situation as nearly the entire planet is in the same boat.

Instead, let’s do what we can (which is a LOT) to minimize the spread of the virus and the socioeconomic impact that WILL be felt far beyond the event itself.

I shan’t cover what has been said repeatedly during White House briefings and other communications about personal hygiene and social distancing. And, if you haven’t been watching the White House briefings, (hearing things from the horse’s mouth) you are getting critical information 3rd hand, spun by the media, resulting in confusion (even panic) as to the true state of affairs.

The next scheduled White House briefing is at 3:30pm Eastern. Tune in!

A critical resource I’d highly recommend staying on top of is the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which you can view by clicking here. This is sound guidance for all of us to heed – as individuals.

Now, to business. And, I’m not sharing this to ensure companies remain profitable. I am sharing this to ensure companies remain VIABLE.

Said another way, if drastic measures are not taken NOW there are companies which will not make it, resulting in shuttered employees as well as the loss of the important products and services manufactured and/or distributed by these firms.

The most critically important are those companies which provide products and services CRUCIAL to society, to ensure they continue to do just that (as the TOP PRIORITY) ahead of any other initiatives.

To achieve the above, there is a key guiding principle that must be adhered to:

Production MUST Prevail

This, to the exclusion of ALL other / non-essential activities.

To support this, a very clear message must be delivered “from the top” that the number one priority is to ensure all resources understand the importance of this mission critical goal (production must prevail) and that any activity that would impact this should take a back seat.

So, what is a company / leader to do?

Following are practical steps that can be taken to plan, prepare and execute accordingly.

  • Identify mission critical:
    • Processes – What are the key processes needed for Production to Prevail?
    • Personnel – Who are the key personnel?
    • Resources – What are the key resources?
      • Tools of collaboration for a remote workforce (email, Webex, etc.)
      • The manufacturing facilities which produce, and distribution centers which move, critical products
      • What about key partners and suppliers?
  • Identify activities which can be paused or de-prioritized
    • Example: All companies will likely experience disruption in their supply chain. Those that produce a critical product for healthcare need to ensure existing customers continue to receive life-sustaining product. To do so, it is worth considering ceasing all NEW customer acquisition so that ALL production and inventory can be allocated towards fulfilling demand of existing customers to ensure they don’t run short.
  • Command and Control / Communications Protocol
    • Define a management / communications structure to ensure the upwards and downwards flow of information, solely focused on the status of critical operations.
      • Who is responsible for monitoring updates from the government and health-related authorities?
      • Who is responsible for interpreting the above as relates to the impact to critical operations?
    • Conduct daily (or more, as necessary) status checkpoints with critical operations
    • Provide daily (or more, as necessary) company-wide updates.
      • Via email, Webex, etc.
      • Include contractors and consultants who may be on the fringe.
  • Determine backfill strategy
    • If (when?) critical personnel are impacted by the event, who will backfill to perform their crucial role? Better to leverage existing / internal resources who are already oriented and trained (to a degree) vs. attempting to hire in this environment.
  • Identify and fill gaps that materialize with a near-fully remote workforce
    • Example: How do signature approvals take place? Yes, email approvals “can” work in the interim. However, in highly regulated environments these email approvals are often required to be followed-up with “real” signatures. This will create a backlog of work (and potentially loss of “official” approval-related documentation). If something like DocuSign hasn’t been implemented, it may be time to do so – now!

The above is meant to provide some “initial”, practical advice for business leaders to consider in responding to this unprecedented event. The failure to consider the above could very well mean failure: failure of the firm you represent.

We are Americans: Failure is NOT an option!

In closing, the above guidance results from decades of experience including, but not limited to, preparing for and executing numerous disaster recovery / contingency planning-related activities and scenarios (both real and imagined).

I hope you find this helpful for you / your firm!

Be safe, healthy and practical!

More to possibly come…

Nothing Like Entrepreneurship!

It is so encouraging to witness, serve and support individuals who come to our country legally, abide by our laws and make a contribution for our collective benefit.

One of my SCORE clients fits that bill to a T!

Here, we have an example of a self-starting woman from Canada, the wife of a veteran and mother of a young boy. She had the guts to quit her full-time career in micro-biology to launch her own business making handmade jewelry out of her home. And, upon doing so, has gained the attention of Vogue, Seventeen, Glamour and Redbook magazines, as well as celebrity endorsements. She now has employees and is looking to continue her expansion.

Instead of my recounting her story, you can learn more by clicking here. Doing so will take you to the page of the SCORE contest “What Makes Your Business Unique.” And, while there, please consider casting a vote for her to win “up to” $25k to support the continued expansion of her business and the creation of more jobs for the citizens of our country!

Interestingly enough, the contest allows the casting of up to 10 votes per hour (from each unique device) until February 20!

So, please take a moment to review her inspiring story and cast your 10 votes (only takes a few seconds).

Also know, you too can be an entrepreneur: in business for yourself and the creator of jobs!

If you have an idea for a service or product that will solve a problem, make life easier, more enjoyable or otherwise improve the human condition, please don’t cast it off as whimsical. Develop your idea, seek counsel from someone who has gone before you and see if you can give it a go.

Seeking a mentor (at SCORE) for example, is an extremely simple (and 100% free / no-cost) process.

To do so, visit, click on “Find A Mentor” provide your zip-code and fill out the form to share a few details about you. From there you will promptly be connected to a local SCORE chapter as the first step to receiving the guidance you seek.

In the words of my client…

There’s nothing like the freedom and possibilities of entrepreneurship!

~Lincey Viel – Arthlin Jewelry, LLC

Click here to go to the index of the series of posts on launching a business.

Startup Administrivia

In a prior post, I mentioned that I was in the process of becoming a certified SCORE mentor, providing guidance to others on launching or better managing their very own small business.

I am happy to report that it is official, and my profile is now online with SCORE (click here to view).

During the process of becoming certified I’ve had the opportunity to work with 17 clients, so far, and am now the “lead mentor” for 8.

I have to say, fanning the flame of someone’s dream to launch their own business as well as providing pragmatic advice on doing so, is EXTREMELY rewarding! As one of my fellow SCORE mentors stated: “This is more fulfilling than most jobs I’ve held.”

I couldn’t agree more!

The purpose of this post is to outline several basic / administrative steps that startups must take, which I’ve shared most frequently, with my SCORE clients to-date.

Here we go…And, the good news is that this isn’t rocket science…

Establish the business entity – The reason: to create a layer of protection should someone come after (file suit against) your business. Most of my clients have chosen to setup an LLC as it is the simplest corporate structure to create. And, you do NOT need to pay an attorney to do so!

There are other “types” of corporate structures, which I won’t cover here. If you aren’t sure which one to go with, click here to visit the Small Business Administration’s website which provides an overview of each.

The simple instructions for setting up an LLC can be found on SCORE Portland’s website by clicking here. Once there, you’ll see the topic: “General Instructions for Establishing a Corporation or LLC in Maine.” This document provides instructions for creating your LLC, checking the availability of your chosen name, and obtaining an employer identification number (EIN, a.k.a., a tax ID for the business) from the Internal Revenue Service.

Key Notes:

The fourth bullet under section 9 of the instructions refers to the option of using an attorney or paid website to create your operating agreement. While those are certainly options, SCORE has prepared a sample agreement you can complete yourself at no cost, and it is available by clicking here.

Click here for a direct link to the Certificate of formation for Maine.

Click here for a direct link to the Certificate of formation for NH.

When completing the Certificate of Formation you’ll notice a section which covers the topic of Registered Agent. For Maine, you’ll want to select “non-commercial” registered agent. And, in both cases (ME or NH) you can enter your own name and address.  It must, however, be a physical address (street and number), not a post office box.  There is no reason to pay someone else to serve as the registered agent.

Register Your Domain Name – Even if you don’t “immediately” plan on setting up a website (although this is a key marketing tool for every business) you’ll want to lock-in your address on the internet (a.k.a. domain name).

There are numerous ways of doing so. Assuming you plan on taking the next step of establishing a website (yourself), to support your marketing efforts, I’d recommend using WordPress. Alternatively, if you plan on selling products / services online, I’d recommend SquareSpace. With either solution you can register your domain name and setup a professional looking website for minimal cost. If you are even a “little” technically savvy and reasonably proficient with MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint, you should have little trouble getting yourself established online – in a matter of hours.

Subsequent posts in this series cover what to consider for the content on your website, so we won’t cover that here…

Setup a Bank Account for your Business – To keep things simple, the first bank to consider would be the one that holds your personal accounts. Note: prior to taking this step you’ll need to have established and show proof of your LLC and EIN.

Obtain Necessary Insurance Policies – Check with your commercial insurance broker to learn more, but this will typically include coverage for:

  • General / Professional Liability
  • Workers Compensation (if you have ANYONE working for you)

Note: There may be other factors to consider (permits and licensing) depending on the nature of your business. Doing a little research online will confirm if and/or how these may apply. And, if all else fails, pick up the phone and call the town and/or state office in the jurisdiction(s) you plan to operate.

Update 4/28/2016: If you are considering launching a business in the great state of Maine, there is an online resource to determine whether you need licensing or permits: I’d suspect something similar exists for other states as well.

Believe it or not, there are tons of resources at your fingertips (online) to help guide you in the process of launching your own business. That said, it “can” be overwhelming. If/when that becomes the case for you, feel free to reach out to a local SCORE chapter near you and seek a mentor. We are happy to help simplify the process. And, we do so for free!

How can you beat that?

In closing, we have now covered the administrative “basics” necessary to establish most small businesses. It is now getting time to put out your shingle, the topic of the next post in this series.

All the best!