Do you have a contingency plan for your business in case the unexpected happens? You should always expect the best, but be prepared for the worst.

If you have read my column over the years, you know that I’m a pretty positive and optimistic person. A positive person commented, “I believe in being aware of problems, but I recognize, that in most cases, there will be solutions. I know there will always be difficulties, but I believe that most can be overcome. I believe in being aware of the negatives, but I choose to accentuate the positives. I may be exposed to the worst, but I expect the best. I may have a reason to complain, but I am choosing to smile.”

Yes, I do believe in living an optimistic life. However, the recent developments in Japan have proven Murphy’s Law – “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” We have to remind ourselves that, while expecting the best, we still need to prepare and plan for the worst.  

For that reason, our optimism cannot allow us to ignore potential scenarios that can harm us or our businesses. We must prepare and plan for possible worst-case scenarios. Good planning requires considering the “what ifs?”

Coach Bear Bryant once said, “It’s not the will to win that counts, but the will to prepare to win that counts.” Preparing to win is important, but preparing for the unknown is also important.  I remember a Dallas to Atlanta flight I was on when the cabin began to fill with smoke. It was thought that the plane was on fire. The pilot took the plane through several maneuvers to put the fire out. These were procedures that every pilot is taught in “what if” or worst-case scenarios. They learned in simulation how to deal with fires. Thank goodness!

I will never forget the announcement. “We are making an emergency landing in Shreveport, Louisiana.” The pilot was prepared, but what about the passengers? When you fly, do you listen to the safety orientation?

It’s amazing what being prepared can do for us. It can give us peace of mind and comfort. I remember when my daughter and her family decided to “hugger down” in Houston during Hurricane Ike. They had prepared with food, water and a generator. They fortified their home by boarding up their windows. They found that “what if” or worst-case scenario planning can eliminate the fear and stress. “If you are prepared, you shall not fear.”

So, how personally prepared are you for possible worst-case scenarios? What if you were killed in an accident tomorrow; would there be a means to take care of your family? What about your children; who would raise them if your spouse were killed as well? What about your assets? Would there be a war over who would get what?

I’ve been roused in the middle of the night at hotels because of fires. I just followed the escape plan. Do you have an escape plan if your house caught fire while your family was sleeping?  If there was an emergency, would you have money or savings to use? What if your clean water supply was cut off, like in Japan; do you have water stored?

What about your business? If something happened to you, who would take over? Do you have a succession plan like John Millar did? Millar was owner and founder of Avalon Carpet Tile & Flooring, the sixth largest floor covering retailer with 14 locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, with over 350 employees. Though he was intricately involved in his business, when he passed, due to complications of heart surgery, the business continued to flourish because of his preparation and succession planning.

If your business partner died, what would happen to his/her share of the business? Would his/her spouse or children come in to work with you? Do you have a buy/sell agreement? What if your number one supplier closed its doors owing you a lot of money; would you be able to pay your bills and still take vendor cash discounts? Do you have a line of credit?

If you had a fire or your computer crashed or was stolen, do you have a back-up of your records? What if you were disabled and couldn’t go to work; who would run your business? Whom have you groomed as a successor? A business owner that needs to be there to run it doesn’t own a business, he/she owns a job.

Just like the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared! Good advice and a good habit. You never know what might happen.