Posts Tagged ‘problems’
Now first off, we have to assume that you have provided an estimate based on a project cost (rather than a day cost). If the customer is paying by the day, then you have to let them know when you think you are going to take more time than agreed or budgeted, so that a higher than expected invoice will not come as a surprise. But if you are using a cloud based project management system, this is an easy task and they will be alerted by the system automatically as tasks slip.
But project based under estimations are a different ball game altogether. When such a project takes longer than you estimated, you could end up making a loss on the project – or cutting corners which means the customer will end up unhappy and unwilling to pay the bill.
Keeping Track to spot problems
First of all, its critical to both you and the customer that you keep track of the project progress in terms of the work agreed, the work you have completed, and if the work is on track. Again, project management software will allow you to do this, so everybody knows what is going on all the time.
The important thing is to spot slippage or extra work as soon as possible. There may be elements that you thought the customer would supply but you are now being asked to deliver, or a misunderstanding of requirements, or a delay from unavailable resources (either on your side or on the customers side). But again, the important thing is, the moment you spot a problem; that is the time to take action.
I have seen too many projects where the project manager thought things could be made up towards the end of the project, either in cutting corners elsewhere or everybody ‘working harder’ to make up the lost time. Yes, this could work – but generally this is just making a situation worse or delaying the pain. Much better to start having a conversation and coming up with a solution sooner rather than later.
Control scope creep or customer based delays
One of the major problems with projects for paying customers is scope creep. This is where the scope of the project is agreed up front, work is started, and then the customer will want more than agreed. This can come about from comments such as ‘But I thought it would do this as well….’, or ‘When you said A, I thought you meant A, B, C and D’. Then there is the external customer influence factor, where your main contact will say things like ‘Just got word from Joe in Marketing, who insists it should do this….’.. Good project scope documents should have a good limitations clause to avoid such problems, but lets assume its too late for that now.
In this situation, it’s important to control the creep. Say “That’s a great idea, but why don’t we deliver what we agreed on, and then we can look at B, C and D after the initial delivery“. This is called change control – and the beauty of change control is that you can then create mini-sub-projects after the main delivery, all of which are chargeable (or at least have the changeability discussion after the customer has paid for the main part of the project).
Customer delays can also come about when they promised to deliver something (data, specifications, resources, hardware, whatever), and fail to do so – or at least, they deliver it late. Once again, having the customer based tasks on a cloud based project management system will stop this from happening. Their responsibilities are scheduled, they are informed of the upcoming requirements, and automatically nagged when it goes overdue.
When customers are late, you have every right to ask for more money if it means delays or additional work for you. I would phrase it along the lines of “The project agreement was that you would provide a widget by the start of November. Unfortunately, the failure to deliver has impacted the project delivery and has resulted in xx lost days which are outside of the original estimate. We are therefore in the unfortunate position of having to bill for these additional lost days at the end of the project”. Again, do this as soon as possible, as this will mean fewer delays in the future (they will not want to get caught out again).
They may of course object to the extra charges, but now you have turned the discussion into a haggle or negotiation. You could of course be the good guy and agree that “Ok, we wont charge you THIS TIME, but will have to in the case of any more delays.”
How I would tell them about under estimation
So now we come down to the tricky business of what to do when you have agreed work and you find that your estimate is nowhere near the amount of work that will actually be required.
Of course, the first option is just to bite the bullet, accept you have made a mistake, learn from the mistake and continue with the project to completion. Deciding to take the hit will need to be based on how much money you will lose, and how much future work is likely from the customer. Generally speaking, I personally side on the rule of “bird in the hand is better than 2 in the bush” and never assume that the customer will provide future work (even if they promise it). If the lose is acceptable, then I will just stay quiet, but if it’s a major hit, then the difficult conversation has to be had.
I would recommend that the conversation never be held either by email or on the phone. When going cap in hand to the customer, a face to face meeting is really the only option that will work. If that is not possible, try to get a face conversation with Skype, otherwise a phone call. An email is going to be last route you should try.
The conversation with them needs to be honest, lay it on the line, and start a negotiation. Try and find an additional payment which works for both you and the customer. They will of course be deeply unhappy, and may force you to complete the project at the agreed price – in which case your only option would be to walk away and make a total loss (with the possibility of legal action against you, subject to whatever legal document you drew up prior to starting work).
I would always try to get a balanced agreement – you are in a bad situation, so your aim would actually be an ‘everybody looses’ balance (e.g., you pay me more, and I will throw in free training and support). The agreement will vary depending on your situation, your project, the customer and your own charisma. But, I would start the conversation with something like:
Here is the situation. I produced the estimate for delivery of the project based on my understanding of the requirement. I am sorry to say that as we worked on the project, my knowledge grew clearer and as a result, I have realised that I have underestimated the effort required to deliver this. We need to talk about reshaping the project, either by re-estimating the effort and cost required to deliver to the agreed scope, or by shrinking the scope of delivery to fit with the agreed budget.
Then, stop talking, and listen to what they have to say. Negotiate!
One thing I can guarantee is that yours will not be the first project that the customer will have ordered that will have gone over budget, and I can also guarantee, yours will not be the last.
But when things go bad, how honest should you be with customers or financial backers?
Let me give you an example (from the real word)….
This last month was a rough one for us. We had a former disgruntled partner that was unhappy about where we were going with Trigger Happy. Taking matters into his own hands, this employee physically wounded other employees and threatened to sell out our intellectual property. It’s a sore subject for us, so we won’t elaborate, but this former partner left us in a disastrous mess. He obscured all our shipping records so we had to rebuild our shipping lists one customer at a time. As you can guess, we have been very preoccupied rebuilding our records. The effect has caused a delay in application development and product delivery. Luckily, the storm has calmed, and everybody at Trigger Happy is smiling again. We’re back on track. We are shocked and saddened for what has happened, but we are more motivated than ever!
The above update was a long overdue update from the founder of a recent Kickstarter company/project called Trigger Happy (a way of controlling DSLR cameras from mobile phones). I am one of the backers.
After a month of people screaming on the kick-starter forum asking why the project was so overdue (3 months and counting) and with the few items that were shipped not working, the above project update was posted by the project founder.
I have a couple of problems with the above update (which can be read in full here):
- Its way too honest and gives too much information. Look, companies have problems, but no customer or backer wants to be told the details because….. they don’t care. What they care about is how it affects them. Where is the service they ordered, their product, the refund? Does the situation cause them any risk or pain?? If you are in a restaurant and you have been waiting an hour for your food to arrive, you don’t want to know there is a delay because water has flooded the kitchen or they have run out of chicken or the chief has sliced his or her finger off – they want to know if they should be leaving to get food elsewhere – i.e., just give me an ETA for my steak. In the above communication, I would have just said “We had technical issues with our customer database, but the issue is now resolved, and we apologise for the delay”.
- In this situation, after around 100 or so complaint posts on the forum (“where is my TriggerHappy?”, “I want a refund!”, “Why are you not keeping us informed?”), it took a month to post the update. When there are problems, constant communication is a MUST. It only takes 5 minutes to send an update.
I have said it before, and I will say it again – communication is King!!!! You can never communicate too much – keep everybody informed and they wont start guessing what is (or is not) going on and imagining the worst.
But as I say, you can be too honest (as in this example). Yes, tell them there was a problem (and it has been resolved), but really, people don’t care about the details – they just care what the effect will be for them, and that everything is back on track.
We put a lot of effort into starting projects; from nurturing prospects through to agreeing terms and requirements. But what about when projects are completed – how do you wrap up and complete projects?
In order to keep a good relationship and possibly win future business with the customer, doing a project hand over is just as important as the project start.
What to include in the hand over
Depending on the type of work that you do and the size of the project, a face to face hand over meeting may be required. If this is the case, it should normally be agreed from the start and factored in your initial work assessment and quotations.
Regardless of whether the project hand over is a face to face meeting, or is performed by email, some of the hand over aspects which you may want to factor in include:
- Training – Depending on the skill level of your customer, some degree of hand over training may be required. This of course could be factored into the initial quotation, or could be offered as an after-service when the project is completed (with an additional fee). Just remember that if you train them *too well*, they may not need your services in the future.
- Support and Maintenance – The flip side of training is support and maintenance (for me, the icing on the freelance cake). If you can charge your customer a regular yearly amount in advance for fixing problems and answer questions, well, that’s how companies grow and big profits are made. If support and maintenance is a consideration, you will need to think about what form the support will take and what the limits are.
- Problem Resolution and Warranty – As part of a hand over, your customer will want to know what to do if they hit a problem. Let them know how long you will support them for (if at all), what to do if they need changes, and how to contact you (you may want them to use a separate support email address for instance). This then ties them in to the support and maintenance agreements. Be clear about what will be free corrections, and what will be chargeable.
- Suggested Next Steps – Without being too pushy, it is worth providing them with a suggested set of next steps (how their product, web site, documents, etc could be expanded for more value). This is one of my key ways of generating future business.
- Passwords and source code – If you have provided them with a product (software product, documents, art work or web site), they will most likely expect to receive the source code. If there are associated web domains, passwords, or accounts, don’t forget to document these. It will save a lot of problems in the future.
- Time Periods – For most projects, you will have copies of their designs/source/art work on your computers and their projects on your project management systems (you do use a project management system to save time and money, right?). It is well worth stating clearly how long you will retain these copies for before you delete them. This is important as you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where they delete their copy by mistake, and expect to come back to you in 5 years time for another copy (which you no longer can provide).
Thank you – Don’t forget to say a big thank you for their business. You don’t need to go over the top, but in today’s climate, a simple thank you will go a long way.
- Survey and Referral – The end of the project is a perfect time to arrange an end of contract customer survey which covers all your dealings with the customer (from quotation to invoice), and also to ask if they would be happy to provide either a reference or a referral.
- Contact Branding – And don’t forget to brand everything with your company. It should be clearly stamped with your company logo, name, address, web site URL, phone number and email address. It may be that your main customer contact may leave in the future, but your documentation will remain on file for others to get in contact for future work.
Get it right, repeat and evolve
This may all seem like a lot of effort, but the secret is to create a generic project hand-over document (or set of documents), which can be used and tweaked for each project. Once you have a template, the updating of a hand over document becomes part of the project closure, and takes a lot less effort in the future.
As with all other documents your company produces (such as the quotation templates, questions list, etc), this can be a living document, that evolves (and improves) over time.
Preparation and submission of the handover document soon becomes a natural part of your project delivery structure.
Maybe now is not the right time to sell
One thing to bear in mind is that the project handover process and documents are there to present subtle messages of next actions, professionalism, and to keep your company name in front of your customer. However, I have found in the past that coming out and asking for more work directly as part of the project handover very rarely works.
The customer will be too wrapped up in getting to grips with the product or service you have just delivered.
It is far better to present the hand over, and at the end, agree a scheduled call or meeting as a ‘follow up’ (to check everything is still ok) in a month or so’s time. That is then the perfect time to raise the ‘next steps’ you have suggested and to look at fishing for the next project.
So you have a web site, and the web site has a nice Contact Us page, and maybe you have even done some extensive A/B version testing to see what layout will get the most enquiries. That’s all great, but….
Maybe you have a contact form, and you clearly display your contact details. Of course, this includes your contact phone number. All these are the right things to do, but….
And your contact form, you have it going to an email address you monitor, right? When an email comes in, it will go to your in tray on your PC/Mac, your phone and maybe even your dog gets a copy. You’re ready to respond.
What happens if something has gone wrong?
What happens if the script that runs your contact form is now incompatible with the software your hosting provider runs? What happens if the email address you send enquiry emails to has become lost via an ISP tweak? What happens if the emails are now caught in your anti-spam filter because of new rules?
In short, how do you know your contact form and email address is not dumping precious enquiries into the recycle bin of another parallel-dimension (or wherever bounced enquiries go to die)?
Why not put a reoccurring task in your calendar or To Do list to send yourself an enquiry once a week, or an enquiry email, and check it gets through?
Better safe than sorry-about-the-lost-enquiries.
Let me kick off this brief discussion about the KISS system with one basic fact….
The more Complex Something is, the more likely it is that it will fail
Now let me expand on this with an example….
Let’s assume you have been tasked to design a prison. This prison will hold just one inmate – for life. So let’s start with the most basic of prison ideas.
You build a prison made up of four walls – the walls are 20 feet tall and 3 foot thick, with no windows or doors. Into this walled box, you put the prisoner. With no tools available – the chances of escape are very slim (other than somebody landing a helicopter in the prison or throwing a rope over the wall). Its simple – it works – it’s almost escape proof.
But, you need to feed the prisoner, and give them a view – so you build a door and a couple of windows. Now, they have a means of escape – the doors and windows become ‘weak points’.
So to compensate, you make it even more complex – now you have to place guards at the doors and windows, and complex locks. But by making it more complex, so it becomes easier to escape – there are more options. Locks can be picked, guards can be bribed.
So the cycle of making things more complex grows, until you have a system so complex that you have introduced 100 ways to escape, and another 100 ways to protect the 100 soft points.
The KISS principle in Business
Software for instance grows to be so complex with so many wiz-bang features that a program can end up with millions of lines of code, and millions of possible bugs. Whenever a change is required, all of the actions of the software have to be considered to see what any changes will break – and things can easily be forgotten. Which is why there are never ending patches in Windows and Microsoft Office Products.
Sometimes it’s too easy to get wrapped up with having the most features, buttons, menus, options, configurations, colours, languages, and choices. But this means more time and cost for design, development and maintenance – and more problems for you and your customers.
So maybe, keeping things simple (at least to start with) is a design and sales tactic worth considering in your next project.
Sorry, this is a bit of a rant. But I want to talk about train travel in the UK. Actually, I want to talk about trains compared to cars as an option when it comes to business travel. I am sure that whatever it is you do, whether you are a contractor, a freelancer or work/own a small business, you need to travel for your business. And I bet you keep hitting the same old question when it comes to travel – do I drive, or do I go by train.
I see trains in the UK as one of the pointers why the UK is in trouble. If I wanted to travel to say Edinburgh or Prague (or any other European city) I have a choice of which airline I want to use. I can compare prices, I can compare rates, I can compare service, and make a choice. But when it comes to Train travel, you are stuck with the operator that runs the line you need to use for your destination.
But the train operators are pricing themselves out of the market.
I have to travel from my home office in Hampshire, to Nottingham. By car, this is a distance of 165 miles. At current HIGH petrol prices, it will cost me 17p a mile to drive (not including car costs such as car, insurance, tax etc). That equates to £29 to get there. Of course I would charge the customer the taxable limit of 40p a mile, so that’s £66 each way. To drive, it will take around 2 hours 44 minutes. I get to sit in a comfortable clean car, that’s warm, listen to my music, but I have the downside of wasted time behind the wheel.
For the train, the exact same journey would cost me £69.70 – each way – or £40 more than the cost of the petrol. The train journey will take 3hours 48minutes – over an hour longer than the car journey. With the train there are the possibilities of delays, cancellations, and of course a fight for a seat, but it does offer the advantage of possibly doing some work (IF I can get a seat).
It’s a spiral – in the wrong direction. Train prices go up, so people avoid the trains, so the train companies make less money, so they have to put the prices up, so more people avoid the trains. The only solution thus far is to prop up the train operating companies with tax payers money. But either the TRAIN ‘product’ works, or it doesn’t – if it’s a good product, fast, clean and a better alternative to driving, then people will use it and it will fund itself. If it doesn’t work – if it’s more expensive, slower, and more stressful than driving, then the product does not work and like any other business with a bad product, it should be allowed to DIE. Only then will it get re-launched with a set-up and price structure that makes sense.
We have all had those days. Days when it seems the planets align, the black cats dance across our paths, the gods test us, and we are inundated with problems and screaming clients. I call them my grenade days – its as if clients spend the morning throwing in virtual grenades into my work pattern either by support issues, problems, emergency changes and the other high priority ‘fixes’. And for whatever reason, when grenade days arrive, it’s as if all my clients have pre-arranged to make sure I am kept on my toes as problems come in from all directions.
Problems can range from software or products that suddenly, without out input from me, stop working. Or suddenly has faults that were not there yesterday. Where there are no obvious problems, I can get emails or calls letting me know that the clients are suddenly not really happy. This can include calls where they want to spend an hour or so on the phone running through the problems to try and obtain an immediate solution, or that they just want to meet to discuss the problems (without saying what the problems are, resulting in an unpaid meeting). The worst I have encountered is the 4 word grenade which takes the form “not fit for purpose” – a general ‘it’s all wrong’ call to action.
In case you ever hit such grenade days – either from a multitude of sources or from a single client/project, can I offer you my 5 tips for dealing with these grenades:
Stop and Think
Sometimes, asking them for more information can make matters worse, so the first thing I do is stop and think about the likely causes of any problems described, put them into order or likelihood, and then step through them to see if any are likely. If so, can any be checked without the customer involvement without too much effort, for a quick win?
What has changed
Products and software do not just stop working or develop faults all by themselves (well, they can, but lets assume that’s not the case). So the next question to ask is; what has changed? The common knee-jerk response from customers is generally ‘nothing’, but now run through the list compiled from the thinking stage, and see if anything has changed such as linked products or systems, configurations, data use, etc
What needs to change
When problems occur, customers will generally tell you what is wrong in fairly dramatic terms, but what they won’t tell you is what they need to fix it. So ask the question “what needs to change to make you happy again” (or words to that effect). This puts the issue back on their side of the fence to tell you what to do – you can then decide if the requested action (come to site, fix it so we cant do such-and-such, work out where the data went, etc) is required, urgent and chargeable.
Remember, they are Human
Humans love stories – and the more complex the story, the better. Therefore when the customer contacts you with a problem or complaint, it may sound like the end of the world, but it may be fairly small and simple in real terms. I recall one customer who called to say that the “whole system was reporting rubbish data”, and when we cooled him down and got him to explain in detail what the problem was, it was one figure in one cell of a report which was wrong (and this was down to the data being supplied from another system). Also, remember that your contact may have the information 3rd or 4th hand from their own people, and problems tend to grow in size and importance as it moves up the chain of command.
Document what is wrong
The final thing I have customers do (after they have finished their rant) is to calmly document the issues in a short (1 page) report which I can respond to. This puts the emphasis back on them, giving you time to breath. It is also a great way to make sure that you fully understand the problem, and it gives you something real and tangible to work with. I have also found that my making a customer go through the document stage, they have worked out the cause of the problem themselves and its something they did.
You remember that girl you dated at school (if you’re a women reading this, it was the guy you dated) – the one you were not so nice to, the one who’s heart you broke. Well, thanks to the internet she can now find you, track you down, see where you work, what you do, and what your thoughts are on last nights TV. The Internet, and especially in social media, has made all of our lives transparent.
I met a freelancer the other day that had a twitter account, and on his feed he was busy tearing holes into all the processes, procedures and systems his last customer used. Now what do you think would happen if after attending a contracting job ‘interview’ or putting a proposal in front of a new prospect, that person googled him? Do you think he would get the work? This is why you need to double-think everything you put into the cloud.
One of my former lecturers once told me that reputations and trust take a lifetime to build, and a moment to destroy. I would suggest in this internet and social connected world, it’s even faster than that.
At the end of January, I carried out my companies year end. Using the small business accounting package (Freeagent), I was able to complete my year end accounts in less than an hour, and passed the figures to my accountant for sign off and submission. Job done! Then once everything was complete in my year end, I did some detailed year end analysis, looking for trends, costs which could be reduced, small profits which could be nurtured in the new financial year, and any other changes that I could make for the better.
Once my analysis was complete, I then did something which I have never done before – I fired 4 customers!
You see, by using the timesheet analysis in Freeagent and comparing the time spent on the customer against the revenue they had brought in, I worked out that these 4 customers were costing me money to support them. The effort of support, answering emails, quoting for new work (work which was never taken up) and other day to day maintenance did not meet the invoices I raised against them. Put it another way, each of these 4 customers was a drain on my company.
Worst than that though – not only were these 4 customers costing me money to support them, but they were actually taking up the most expensive commodity I had – time. Every moment that I spent on their maintenance, was hours and days which I could not spend on new or more profitable customers.
So one at a time, I called up the principle contact for each of the customers, and as I say, I fired them. In a nutshell, I said “Sorry to trouble you, but I have been going through our records and it appears we haven’t done any real business in the last year or so. It also appears we are spending a lot of time providing free maintenance for you in the way of emails and other support, so I regret that we have reached the point we need to terminate our relationship”. Yes, I know – fairly heartless right??
The effect of the conversations was as follows:
One customer got really upset. They was some name calling, they hung up on me, and I have never heard from them again.
The next two customers said they understood, they could see my point. They said that their finances did not allow for any new purchases, so there was nothing they could do. They asked for a hand over meeting (which I provided free of charge), and they were happy to call it a day.
The final customer of the four was shocked. He didn’t realise that his staff called on my company so much, and was very apologetic. He asked for a figure to provide the support to them for a year, and promptly raised a purchase order. They remain a customer – and I now get paid to answer their query emails, to raise quotes and attend meetings with them.
But the point is, by removing the non-profitable customers from my customer pool, my company has gained some 180 hours or so of extra time a year which can be directed to profitable customers and projects, with no impact on my balance sheet. Now you can say that maybe I should have held on to them until a new customer came along to replace them, but then where would the 180 hours come from to allow me to deal with the new customers?
I am also in the process of firing a pet personal project – a project which I spend a little time on yet doesn’t generate any revenue or return. It’s not easy because I have invested time, money and effort into this project, but it’s important not to get emotionally attached to customers or projects. If they are not working. Much better just to cut the ties and move onto something which is more fulfilling, responsive and ultimately profitable.
Don’t you think?
As the Christmas adverts start to appear on TV, the shops fill with tinsel, and Band Aid (do they know it’s Christmas) is playing in every shop you enter, it’s hard not to stop and scream ‘You do know there is still two months to go don’t you?!?!?!?’. But all of these do remind us that Christmas is just around the corner. And as we move into the winter months, the big question is not ‘Will it snow as much as last year’ but more…. If it does, what will you do about it?!?
Last year’s snow caused chaos! Cars were stuck in drifts or unable to move from driveways, railways ground to a halt, flights were cancelled and for a few weeks, the country ground to a halt. This is of course great if you work for somebody else, a few days stuck at home building snowmen with the family is great fun, but when the missed work means loss of revenue for you personally, it’s not so great. So what plans have you made for this year’s disruption?
But whilst making those plans, why not take a few more steps. Snow is seasonal – it may affect us for a week or two. So whilst making those snow plans, why not see if there are other ‘just in case’ plans for your business which you can put in place.
A good starting list for thinking about includes:
So let’s start with the snow plans. As I predict it’s going to be bad again like last year, I am going to be stocking up early with salt and sand bags to keep in the garage just in case. Last year’s snow meant shops ran out in record quick time, so just now – whilst its plentiful and cheap, half a dozen bags can be stored in the garage (it doesn’t go off, so can sit there for years until its needed). But better than that, I have worked my schedule so during most of December and January I will be working from home, so no travelling for me. What about you – can you change your schedules to remove the need to travel?
None of us like the idea of falling ill. Of course, the odd bought of flu or cold will always happen – but what happens if things are more serious? A broken leg, a broken arm, or something worse? If you don’t have any plans in place yet, it may be worth looking at private health cover to get you on your feet as soon as possible (you don’t want to be stuck in an 18 week NHS wait queue), and of course critical illness insurance cover for the lost revenue when you are not working. But please have somebody with some experience read the critical illness contract as some do not cover freelancers, contractors or the self employed.
Prevention is better than cure, so are you doing anything to maintain your level of fitness and health. For most small business owners, they are their own most important asset, so is there anything you can do to stay fit, happy and healthy. Memberships to gyms can be paid for by your company (although it is a taxable perk), so it may be time to get yourself into shape and protect your investments.
Loss of Assets Plans
What happens if you lost an asset you need for your business? What happens if you crash your car (is there a spare car you can use to get to those meetings, do you have the number of a rental company to hand)? What about computers? Please tell me that you have the data backed up somewhere and you take backups on regular occasions (daily or weekly minimum). What are the important assets for your business, and what are your backup plans for those assets? Think about computers, printers, mobile phones, cars, offices, your house and of course your business data.
Loss of Resource Plans
Now what about resource that is no longer available – can you create a backup plan for that? It’s useful to keep a handful of freelancers or contractor contact details to hand that you can call on when resource is needed. This includes a backup plan for yourself – you never know when a family member will need your help or you have to drop everything to help somebody out – who can you pass your work onto in an emergency?
Loss of Internet Plans
For most small businesses, the internet is one of the heaviest forms of technology that they use. But internet connections do go down, telephone lines do get accidently cut by engineers working on roads, exchanges do sometimes catch fire. What are your backup plans for loss of the internet? Is there a list of internet cafes you can use in an emergency? Is there a way of getting hold of the emails that normally go to your phone or exchange server?
General Backup Plans
Then of course there are the general backup plans, plans that cover a wide range of options. These may include call answering services (to take the calls when you can’t), communication options such as skype (for when communication is an issue or you cannot move), online presentation systems, online storage and backup (such as dropbox) for keeping copies of work.
Clearly, none of us wants anything bad to happen. But some things (like snow) are more likely than others and having a backup plan means that when the unfortunate does occur, you are not left scrabbling around – you have a plan and you know what you are doing.