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Are you Prepared for the Unexpected?


I’m going to Germany for Christmas!!! Or so I thought, until my car was broken into at a lunch stop on the way to the airport. Grabbing my backpack through the smashed window, the thief made off with my laptop as well as our passports and Lindsey’s green card. Having no passports, we were forced to cancel the trip.

After the initial shock, I thought about it and realized, as long as my identity is not stolen, this really isn’t that big a deal. The laptop is replaceable and was insured. The data was backed up the night before. I had carefully removed my credit cards from the backpack the night before. And frankly, although Germany would have been fun, it wouldn’t really have been a vacation, it would have been an exhausting gauntlet of feasts with German relatives.

As it turns out the thief left the bag and passports sans gear on the street for the police to pick up. We received a call the next day and gleefully picked up our travel docs and otherwise empty backpack.

What this got me thinking about more than anything is the importance of being prepared. Do you have backups? Do you have insurance? Do you have a contract? Are you keeping good books?

I liken this to defensive driving (not to be confused with slow neurotic driving). It behooves us to beware of potential pitfalls so that we can avoid them. You’ll never be able to prevent all bad things, but you can avoid a lot of them just by trying.

Here are some things that I think may be worth organizing:

  • Document Your Stuff
    Make a spreadsheet of all your major equipment, purchase dates, serial numbers, and purchase prices
  • Insure
    Get insurance that covers the contents of your house, office, and portable gear
  • Backup
    Make regular backups of all your data. Make sure that every piece of data lives in at very least two locations. The backups should not be in the same building if you can avoid it. If your house burns down and with it you lose both your computer and your backups that won’t do you much good. I leave my backups in a fire proof safe.
  • Password Protect
    Make sure that all your essential information is password protected. If someone steals your computer, they should not be able to ascertain any of te following info:

    • Soc Security Numbers
    • Credit Cards
    • Passwords
    • Financial Data / Account Numbers
    • Auto login on websites that give access to any important personal info
  • Credit
    Good credit is (or will be) your most valuable asset. It’s worth guarding. Sign up for a credit fraud prevention program that tracks credit applications using your identity. Also keep track of your credit score. And of course, pay your bills on time.

While we’re talking about being prepared and organized, here are some more general business planning issues that are fundamentally essential though often overlooked.

  • Contracts
    It’s important to use contracts so that no one “forgets” their part of the deal. You might expect that the verbal agreement you made was adequate, but people’s memories change over time
  • Bookkeeping
    I put this here, not because it involves anything unexpected, but because it’s remarkable how many business owners don’t document the money flowing through their businesses. good bookkeeping will help keep financial surprises at bay.
  • Tax Planning
    Don’t forget that you will need to pay a hefty chunk of dough come tax time. Talk to your accountant (get an accountant) about how much you should be saving from every check that you get from your clients. then save that amount in an interest baring account.

Honestly, this has been one of the greatest winter breaks I’ve ever had. But that’s because I prepared for it.

What are some other things that you anticipate? How do YOU prepare for the unexpected?