Everyone is being critical of BA as they have grounded all their planes over the Bank Holiday Weekend. Although nobody seems to know exactly what went wrong, and investigations are ongoing, here are a few questions which might be relevant to your business too, whatever its size or nature.
What is crucial to your business? It seems a power outage caused a vital computer system to fail, affecting all BA’s operations. How could your business be grounded? Is there one thing that your business depends on? A system, a machine, a building, or even a person?
- Can you identify it and evaluate its robustness?
- What could make it fail? How likely is it? What can you do to prevent that?
- Do you have back up? Is anything or anyone indispensable? A standby generator would surely have been a good investment.
Do you have a Plan B? What should you, and each of your employees, do in the event of a major failure of a crucial system, machine or whatever? Is it total shutdown or can you carry on at a reduced level of output?
How will clients or the public react? BA seem to have done nothing to communicate with travellers: to inform, to reassure, or to offer any sort of help. The damage to their reputation could turn out to be the most expensive part of this catastrophe.
What will it cost? Whenever you assess risks, you will obviously consider the cost of any risk control measures you are to consider. Do you also consider the cost of failing to implement such controls?
Before you condemn BA, ask yourself whether you would do any better. If you are worried, have a word with me. What have you got to lose? Don’t become grounded.
I have written that writing fiction can be a help in business by developing your creativity. I said that creativity is a quality that is needed in business. Any kind of business.
What do I mean?
We all have a creative side to our brains and an analytical side. Some seem stronger on one side than the other. The balance tends to determine the sort of job you do, or do best, and the sort of hobbies you take up. But nobody is 100% one or the other. Well, almost nobody.
You tend to use the analytical side when doing technical things. But even in a technical business, you need creativity for it to be a success.
- New ideas.
- Beating the competition.
- Problem solving.
These are all the things you haven’t got time for in a busy day, just keeping up with the demands of the business. That’s half the trouble, and I will be writing about that soon.
The other half of the trouble is that almost nobody teaches creativity. In fact, all too often, education and training seem designed to suppress it. Learning to do things a certain way, unquestioningly following procedures, is the surest way to learn to switch off your creative side.
I am not saying that we should not learn the technical side of things, or that there is no place for procedures and order in business or in life. I help design procedures to control risks. However, the danger is that we rely on the procedures too much, without thinking. Any new risk is likely to be ignored if it is not picked up by any of your existing procedures. So I want you to learn how to identify and manage risks, old or new, and to write new procedures as and when necessary. I want you to recognise when a procedure is not appropriate for the situation and make an exception.
Creativity is especially important when dealing with a changing situation.
I will be writing again about ways of developing your creative side. It is certainly an issue I intend to include in risk management consultations. But I will not forget to use the analytical side of my brain too.
The tabloids are saying a Labour victory would be a disaster for the economy. I suppose it depends which part of the economy you inhabit. Let’s unpack it a bit.
- Labour’s promises of higher levels of Income Tax and Corporation Tax don’t sound attractive if you are in business. There are, however, a few points to balance that.
- Higher levels of Income Tax won’t affect those like me who earn less than 80,000 a year. If I do get into that bracket, I won’t mind paying more tax: I’ll still be better off. I still have an incentive to work hard and be innovative.
- Corporation Tax will affect you more if you are making large profits. I’s still prefer to make a larger profit than a smaller one. OK – for some businesses, the extra tax could mean the difference between a project being worthwhile and… not.
- Labour’s plans for nationalization, or re-nationalization, of various industries will matter most if you are in one of the industries about to be nationalized. In the long run, it depends on whether the government can manage those industries better than the present management. Better for whom? Shareholders? Directors? Consumers? A lot of businesses would benefit from a better regulated market in utilities and from more efficient railways.
- Labour’s general plans for more government spending will benefit businesses on whose products or services the money is spent.
- Money spent on education and training will benefit businesses when we start finding school-leavers are better prepared for the workplace. Of course, that could take some time to work its way through to your business.
Now for the Big Risk.
I have said before that leaving the EU could be good or bad, depending on the new arrangements we worked out. A Hard Brexit would most probably be bad. Very bad.
- Losing access to European markets, or having to overcome tariff and administrative barriers.
- Similarly, having difficulties with supplies coming from Europe.
- Losing workers who are non-British EU citizens.
- Being unable to move key employees around between Britain and Europe.
All these things would probably damage most businesses far more than higher Corporation Tax. After all, if you don’t make a profit, due to lost sales and higher costs, you won’t care about tax rates.
I have also said that I expected most EU legislation to remain effective in the UK, as it would almost certainly be an essential element of any trade deal. Much of it is desirable for other reasons anyway. Yet I have heard worrying rumours that there will be a great deal of pressure from some elements of the Tory Party and of the tabloids (is that a tautology?) to scrap most EU legislation around such things as
- workers rights
- H & S
- the environment
To do so would be possible only in the event of an extreme Brexit. We need to think carefully whether some savings in costs and reductions in bureaucracy outweigh the long-term damage to society and the environment. These are risks we need to manage.
There is a choice. But it is far from straightforward. There are big risks. Which risks are most important to you and your business?
Following my recent article about managing the cyber risk, you may be wondering how much you need to spend to ensure adequate cybersecurity for your business. That is a sensible question, as there is no limit to the amount you could spend, and we know that 100% security from cyberattacks is as unrealistic as 100% physical security. You want value for your money, don’t you?
This is where the basic principles of risk management become relevant. See my book Load The Dice https://tsw.createspace.com/title/5163656 Kindle ASIN: B00R58W9NQ
What do I mean? Think about the probability and potential severity of each risk., in this case the cyber risk.
- What data is on your computer?
- How crucial is it?
- Where is it backed up?
- How easily could you reinstall your software?
- How likely is it that your business would be specifically targeted?
- How dependent are you on other organisations that are more likely to be targets?
When you have the answers to all the above, you are then in a position to review your cybersecurity.
There are three options.
- You can do this alone or with your own IT people.
- You can see me or another risk management consultant., such as www.metanoia-business-services.co.uk
- Or you can go to a more advanced cybersecurity firm, perhaps one that does penetration testing like www.xyone.co.uk
Or you could always do what the NHS did. Wait and see what the dice do. I think it’s better to load them in your favour.
It’s your decision. It’s your business.
I know there’s lots of advice popping up everywhere about the cyber risk today, so I won’t say much except to remind you of things I have written in the past and to say I can help you if you want to talk.
I work with Metanoia Business Services for the more technical aspects of this. www.metanoia-business-services.co.uk
But even getting the less technical things right would be a start.
Here’s a few basic tips:
- Don’t open suspicious e-mails, or their attachments, or follow their links.
- Don’t pay any ransom.
- Do back up regularly.
- Do have a recovery plan.
Remember to apply the basic principles of Risk Management to the cyber risk.
And you know where to find me.
You may know that, in addition to my various non-fiction books, I have now written a detective novel, Accounting for Murder, Double Entry. https://tsw.createspace.com/title/7006258
When I began, I accepted that this would mean taking time out from my risk management activities, including prospecting for clients. Apart from writing and editing, I spent time improving my writing, by reading advice on the internet and joining a webinar on the subject.
Did any of this benefit me or my business? (Apart from the royalties I hope to get from the book!)
The answer is Yes!
I have been surprised at some of the lessons I have learnt. You will not be surprised that I found that a lot of things I had learnt in the course of my business were applicable to the business of writing fiction, and especially to marketing my books. However, I was surprised to discover that it was a two-way street.
I discovered that one of the qualities needed in business is creativity. Not only in “creative” businesses, but in all sectors, even financial and technical ones. And working on a piece of fiction is one way to develop your creativity. This has really given me something to think about. And apply. And to pass on.
I will be writing in more detail on this subject in future.