The Unexpected Will Happen – Guaranteed. What Will You Do?

By Stephanie Clark.

Early in my entrepreneurial journey I conducted the odd client interview at a mutually agreed-upon local coffee shop. On the occasion I have in mind, I lost the interview notes. Thank goodness that it was a junior client that I interviewed as I could not find my typed notes anywhere on my laptop. I mitigated a potential disaster by immediately composing the client’s résumé and letter, relying on my memory only. As you can imagine, I never again suffered through that heart-attack inducing scenario!

Risk management, from a business perspective, is defined as “The identification, analysis, assessment, control, and avoidance, minimization, or elimination of unacceptable risks.”

With today’s clients belonging to more senior and complex roles, losing an interview transcription would be an unacceptable risk. I now conduct all interviews via telephone or Skype and set up the interview file well in advance, properly saved in the correct folder.

According to Canada Business Network, Info Entrepreneurs, “Risk management focuses on identifying what could go wrong, evaluating which risks should be dealt with and implementing strategies to deal with those risks.”

As service providers, our risk factors fall broadly into four categories: strategic, compliance-driven, financial, and operational. The four ways of dealing with risk are to accept, transfer, reduce, or eliminate.

Let’s go through the categories and consider how we might best approach these.

Strategic

Canada Business Network’s Guide to Risk Management gives the example of a competitor entering the market. Unless you accept the risk of ending up the major suspect in a murder investigation, elimination is not an option! But seriously, you might assess this risk by asking yourself the likelihood of new competition (probable), and when that competition arrives, what your response could be. You could redouble your marketing efforts or even reach out to build a relationship and investigate the possibility of a future alliance. Or, you might proactively put systems in place to deal with consequences, such as a strong annual marketing plan and sales training.

Compliance

New legislation or regulations seem unlikely in our field, but now and again I’ve heard rumours of our industry as a candidate for regulated requirements. I think it is prudent to accept that this might be a future factor, in which case the best way to prepare is to continue with professional development.  Take courses, such as those in CPC’s Career Development Practitioner (CDP) program. We may not know if, when, or under what conditions regulations may arrive at our doorstep, but a variety of accreditations is a good idea if not 100% sufficient.

Financial

The Guide cites customer non-payments as a financial risk, and this is something most self-employed practitioners are familiar with. Mitigating this risk is both straightforward and challenging. The easy part is adding language to a contract, whether that is a formal document or a simple email agreement that we ask the client to acknowledge with a reply of acceptance.

But the challenging aspect involves the verbal conversation when a client challenges our process or our work. To fully mitigate the potential financial risk, I suggest a two-fold approach: ensure your skills are up-to-date and top-notch with ongoing training and engage a business coach to help you with the assertive delivery of difficult messages.

In order to be certain that your résumé strategy, cover letter focus, and LinkedIn optimization are all strong, annual coursework is best. And to be 100% sure that your grammar and composition does not become the source of client dissatisfaction, again, training – with marks from an accredited college or university – is something I highly recommend. It’s easier for a client to have confidence in points of grammar working with a writer who completed a recent college- or university-level refresh.

And finally, to assuage the potential of a wild card client appeased by nothing, not credentials, marks, awards, or accolades, consider purchasing liability insurance. You’ll find information about that on CPC’s website.

Operational

We have little in the way of equipment – computer, printer, and cell phone suffice for most. Our tools are easily and quickly replaced with a drive to a store or online order. But our data is critical. Is there any excuse for not purchasing “cloud” backup? It’s inexpensive and automated for daily updates – what could be easier? My daily file backup, Veeam Agent, was installed by my IT service. Reliable and affordable, neither requires on-site presence as both work entirely remotely. Easy-peasy!

In Conclusion

Whether to accept, transfer, reduce, or eliminate is fairly straightforward depending on the situation. As self-employed career practitioners, why would any one of us be willing to jeopardize our success by refusing to accept and address the aspect of risk? We have no department to which we might transfer the accountability, but with a bit of time and affordable investments, the solutions are not at all beyond our grasp.

Do share your stories– which situations provoked you to find risk management strategies?

Photo by Stuart Miles on freerangestock.com

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