Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dealing With Setbacks

Ever have one of those weeks?

Most people who know me who ask me how I’m doing usually get an “awesome!” or something equally positive.  I always mean it, too – since I started at Kingston Data & Credit, every day has been an adventure.  However, this week has not quite been the adventure I would normally plan for.

It started with coming into the Brantford branch to find there was a power outage – I didn’t think it was a huge deal, and it happens sometimes.  However, when we brought the power back on and rebooted all the computers and servers, I discovered we didn’t have internet.  You see, we have multiple internet providers at each of our branches, so if one becomes flaky or goes down, we have another service to fall back on.  However, our aggregator service that manages the multiple services is our safety net, and it went down about 2am on Monday morning, taking our access to the internet with it, which also includes access to our database access and phones.  Suffice it to say, Monday morning lived up to its reputation.

The week has pretty much continued on the same kind of rollercoaster ride, with unexpected staff absences, a computer terminal going down with hard drive failure, an important courier package going missing en route to Minnesota, one of our internet domain registrations having an interruption, and on and on.

For anyone in the business world, whether you are in IT or Operations, you know these sort of weeks happen, and interruptions to the steady flow of industry are inevitable.  So, you might as well be braced for it, and prepare to deal with problems as they arise, or before they even occur.

First, Don’t Panic

The collection industry is known in some circles to have excitable management.  I have seen executives scream and throw things, I’ve seen supervisors fire whole teams or storm off in a huff, and I’ve seen employees quit over emotional outbursts.  Really, this isn’t necessary.

So, if you find your heart racing and you want to scream – take a deep breath.  Things have gone wrong, but panicking isn’t going to fix things, and believe me, losing your nut will only make things worse.  Evaluate the problem – how bad is it?  Take a few minutes to think about it, and put together a plan on coping.

The sooner your setback is resolved, the sooner everyone can get back to business.  Yelling and pointing fingers isn’t helpful now, and isn’t part of any continuity of business plan that I’ve ever seen.  It’s okay to be unhappy that your server melted, someone introduced a virus into your network, Snowmaggedon 2015 shut down your company for the day, or a key staff member just got laid over in Vancouver for a week.  If you weren’t upset, you wouldn’t be passionate about your responsibilities and your organization.  However, arm flailing, wall punching, or verbal explosions cause more trouble now and later.  Evaluate the problem, solve the problem, and review the problem.  

Always Have A Backup Plan

Some problems are unique, and you can’t solve them – they happen out of the blue, and are out of your control.  Who could tell there would be a record amount of snowfall that would damage the roof, and now it’s raining in your server room?  But if this is the third time that your database has corrupted, you might want to think about your file backup schedule.  If one of your internet providers goes down now and then, shouldn’t you pay for a redundant service?  If you have a contingency plan to deal with likely problems, then you can minimize the negative impact.

The best time to come up with a backup plan is after you have solved your immediate problems, and everything is back to normal.  The problem and solution are fresh in your head, and everyone on your team knows what the pain points were.  When things are running smoothly, you can try to come up with solutions for problems that haven’t happened yet, or will happen again.

When you have come up with your backup plan, make sure to let everyone know what the actual plan is – there will be less running and screaming from your co-workers when things break down while you are laid over for your flight from Vancouver, and can’t help them.

Do You Have Breathing Room?

Usually, part of a problem when your company suffers down time or loses a staff member is that you can’t spare the time or suffer a loss of manpower.  That just compounds the setback … if you don’t build some wiggle room for your organization to deal with down time or rearranging of duties, you aren’t very resilient.  This could mean banking some capital as a planned hedge fund against trouble, or factoring in the cost of redundant vendors in place as an insurance policy.  Your company is going to suffer hiccups and bumps in the road, you might as well work that into the business model.

Real Leadership Is Shown In The Face Of Adversity

So remember the part about not panicking?  When you react emotionally, it can set off other team members during the crisis, or it teaches them that outbursts are an acceptable coping mechanism in the workplace.  If you kept your cool, and solved the problem with a minimum of fuss, you are half-way there.

After the dust settles, take a few minutes to talk to everyone affected about why things went to heck in a handbasket, how you and your fellow employees solved the problem.  Talk about what the plan is for the future, and take in suggestions on how to make your future solution better. 

If you hide from problems, you aren’t setting a good example.  If you don’t explain how the problem was fixed, others won’t be able to solve it without you.  If you don’t take input from your team, you might not have understood the whole problem and it’s repercussions.  Having a debriefing is essential to you and your co-workers.

So, How Am I Really Doing?

My response this week has been “I’ve had better weeks”, usually with a small chuckle.  I’ve had worse weeks too, but I try to focus on the positive.  It’s Thursday, and we’ve dealt with the problems beyond our control as best we can, we solved the issues that we can control, hired a new manager who brings expertise to the company, and we spent some time putting some extra backup equipment and redundancies in place.  After all, that which does not kill us makes us stronger …

If you have any questions about redundant services, backup schedules, continuity of business plans, or just want to chat about your bad week at the office, feel free to reach out to me.   I’m happy to compare notes and offer suggestions on how to prepare for the rough week at the office.

Thanks kindly,

Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
KINGSTON Data & Credit
Brantford, Ontario

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