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How to minimize your business risk in less than 10 minutes

Amy Throndsen for Progressive Dairyman Published on 30 November 2018

Have you done something stupid lately? I have. I went away for the weekend and not only left the back door unlocked, I left it wide open.

My neighbour called to let me know there was a burglary in the neighbourhood over the weekend, so I asked her to go check on the house.

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She found the back door wide open. We both had a bit of a panic as she walked through the house to check it out. Thankfully, no one had entered our home. We were extremely lucky.

After my heart stopped racing, it got me thinking. As it relates to “risk management,” what am I doing in my business this absurd (like leaving a door open) that I could easily implement to make an immediate positive impact (like shut and lock the door before leaving town)?

While we often think of this topic in relation to finances on a dairy farm, it also applies to minimizing danger or major inconveniences that could interrupt or halt the day-to-day activities that impact your livelihood.

Luckily, I have a friend who specializes in risk management, so I called him for some advice. Brad Krueger of Rainy Day Resilience had a few good tips to apply to your business and home.

“Unfortunately, the term risk management can be intimidating,” Krueger said. “It’s important to not get overwhelmed by trying to identify and eliminate every risk your organization faces. Initially, focus on what’s most important to your business while keeping in mind that, over the long term, successful businesses balance risk and reward.”

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Identify worst-case scenarios

Krueger suggested an easy place to start the risk management journey is by getting key members of the management team together for an informal risk assessment, also referred to as a “premortem.”

Step 1. Gather your team for one to two hours.

Step 2. Distribute to each attendee a piece of paper containing only the following: Imagine that we tried to milk cows and run our dairy the way we normally do, but the outcome was nothing short of a disaster. For the next 10 minutes, write down as many “worst-case scenarios” you can think of with as many details as possible.

Step 3. Have each person walk the group through their worst-case scenarios. Assign one person to capture all the risks mentioned in each story.

Step 4. As a group, go through all the risks mentioned.

  • Identify what you can easily change right now, and make the change immediately.

  • Prioritize remaining items and assign responsibility for solving them. Set due dates and schedule a follow-up meeting.

  • For companies wanting to implement a more formal framework to identify and mitigate operational risks, the Rainy Day Resilience website contains links to a number of free resources.

Like you, I’m busy, so didn’t have a lot of time, but I wanted to do something. Burglary in the neighbourhood and a door open were the motivators I needed. Let my mistake help motivate you.

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Take action

The following are examples of three actions I took to protect my business, and each took me less than 10 minutes. You can do them right now:

1. Move computer backups to a fireproof safe.

The reason I backed up my files on an external hard drive was in case my computer crashed, but I didn’t think about a fire.

I have many files in “the cloud” but not all of them, and since I am already spending the time to do the backup already, now I just keep my backup in the safe.

It was an easy fix, and it only took 10 seconds to walk to the safe instead of the bookshelf.

2. Store key paper documents off-site.

Again, thinking about a fire at the office, I took home a box of literature so if anything would happen to the office, we would at least be able to answer customer inquiries.

3. Write down key phone numbers from your phone and keep a copy at home, the office, in your vehicle and suitcase.

Anyone who has ever lost their cellphone contacts quickly realizes how few telephone numbers they know by memory. It’s a pain to look them all up, even if you’re not in an emergency.

What if you needed all of the numbers quickly? Where would you turn? Since I’m on the road meeting with customers a lot, I put a copy in my suitcase, too.

Let’s put this into perspective on your dairy:

  • Where are your computer files stored?

  • Where are the backups?

  • Are the backups secure?

  • How would you contact your employees if you could not rely on the numbers saved in your phone?

  • Do your employees know who to contact in case of an emergency?

  • Are your main water and electrical valves clearly marked, in all necessary languages, in case it would need to be shut off?

  • Is there something you are doing anyway that, if you added or adjusted one thing, you may be more “protected” in case of an emergency?

At home, we went around the house and took a video in every room so if we ever have to make an insurance claim, we’ll have some “evidence” to help support our claim.

I hope none of the precautions I’ve put in place are ever needed in our business or home. But I sleep a little better knowing in case of an emergency, there are a few more steps in place so I can focus on the important things, like the health and safety of my family and employees, rather than on trying to find a phone number.  end mark

Amy Throndsen
  • Amy Throndsen

  • Director of Business Development
  • Advanced Comfort Technology Inc.
  • Email Amy Throndsen

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