Planning for unexpected health problems is essential

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Terry Sage of Trades Coaching New Zealand

Terry Sage of Trades Coaching New Zealand reminds trade-based business owners that it’s essential to have plans in place should you become unexpectedly crocked and the business has to forge on without you.

We have covered this before within these pages, but we are talking about it again because I have spent the past week having to deal with it — and it’s really hit home how quickly the proverbial can hit the fan.

Some background first — and this will resonate with a lot of small-to-medium sized business owners, but even the larger ones could fall under the same scenario.

I’ve been dealing with a trade-based business. It is run by a husband and wife team, with the recent inclusion of the eldest daughter for support and back-up. There are 13 other staff, tradies, apprentices, support and admin.

One key role is quoting and invoicing, and over the past four years three different people have been employed in this position with varying levels of success and failure, to the point where the owner has stepped back into this position.

Like all trade-based businesses, if you don’t get the quotes right and invoice in time, the cashflow goes backwards.

So, after a slight reshuffle and new hires, this business is humming along nicely. And then.

The “then” started with a slight pain in the back — you know, the weakly-pulled muscle. Four to five days later the muscle is making it hard to get out of bed, but being the typical Kiwi geezer — “she’ll be right mate” — work must go on.

Not only are you not that effective at work, but you’re now a miserable Kiwi geezer and making everybody else’s work day a living hell.

Common sense

Thank god for common sense — the wife says it’s time to see a doctor. Sorry husband, she does care for you but, actually, she’s sick to death of your mood.

The doctor takes a look, frowns and says “I’m sending you to the hospital for an x-ray”. The x-ray turns into six hours of blood tests, scans and MRIs.

Scared yet? So all this happened on the day that I was meeting their bank managers to discuss the possibility of them buying the building they currently lease.

So I called them with good news, and they cut me short with the bad news.

Seven days later, he’s still in hospital. The wife’s stressed to the max, the daughter has been a rock but stretched to the max, and the doctors haven’t got a clue, which is no disgrace to them as they are doing a stellar job.

But back to the bit about quoting and invoicing. Soon, actually very soon, the work and the income stream will come to a halt if he doesn’t return to work in a timely manner.

So what was “just” a perceived pulled muscle a week ago now has the potential to collapse a 30-year-old, $2.5million company.

Now if this scenario had played out eight months ago that could well have been the end of this story.

Okay, we don’t quite need a Give a Little page yet as there’s been quite a bit of work around succession planning, and we do have a back-up plan.

But even with the work so far, the past week has shown there are still gaps. The stress and worry aside — and still the not knowing what’s actually wrong — the business will still keep going and the 16 staff will still have a future.

But it will suffer hard times with reduced output for maybe a month or so  — hopefully only a month or so.

The point is, if you wake up one morning with a similar back ache, what plans have you got in place to make sure you will still have a job to go back to, and that you can still pay the mortgage while you’re chowing down on hospital food?

Another tip here is to read the small print on that insurance policy, as this also showed up a rather nasty gap!