Over the years, I’ve made some big changes in my life without so much as a doodle on a napkin. When I was 24, bored with my admin job, I found myself pacing around my apartment one night, mumbling, “What do I want to do? What do I want to do?” Then it hit me: Camp. I had spent 10 summers at an overnight camp in New Hampshire, starting at age 6. Loved every minute of it, and the idea of working in that field full-time. The next day I called the American Camping Association and requested a copy of their trade magazine. When it arrived I sent off letters of interest to three companies advertising for year-round help. The interviews – and offers – happened quickly. Within two months, I moved to Philadelphia to manage the office of a three-camp organization that also operated as a conference center.
It was a treat to spend my summers in the Poconos, wearing t-shirts and shorts. I loved the people and treasured the lifestyle. But two years later, tired of the limitations of a small family business, I decided to call it quits. A few days before I moved north for the summer, I gave up my apartment in the city, put my belongings in storage, and “planned” to find a new job by the end of August. This “plan” also included buying a car. I didn’t know where I’d end up, but I could no longer bank on access to public transportation. Surely the new job I’d find – while working 7 days a week, hours from a metropolitan area – would enable me to make monthly car payments? (The one practical move I made was purchasing a stick-shift car. It was cheaper than the automatic. The fact that I didn’t know how to drive it was a separate challenge.)
“Gutsy” is how my husband describes those moves. I disagree. They were impetuous. What if I hadn’t found a higher-paying job that led to new experiences, opportunities, and, ultimately, the launch of two businesses?
But I did. I was lucky. And I bet that’s why 26 years later there are still times where I stupidly operate without a plan.
A few weeks ago I was the guest presenter for a client’s weekly online sales/marketing meeting. There are three sessions, each 1.5 hours long. I offered to run the presentation using our GoToMeeting account. I emailed participants the information on how to join the meeting online and by phone. I had presented to the groups the previous month, so I wasn’t expecting any challenges.
Twenty-five minutes before the third session was scheduled to begin, I launched the meeting from my desktop computer. If any participants logged on early, they’d see the “green room” screen. I resumed working.
Five minutes later, my computer screen went dark. Before I realized what had happened, the power was back on. Assuming it was a temporary glitch, I ignored it. A few minutes later it happened again. Now I thought, “What the #$%@ – I’ve got a problem!”
This time I tried to prepare for more challenges. I sent a copy of my PowerPoint to the consultant who runs the meetings; if need be, she could forward the presentation to participants to follow on their own. We were using the organization’s conference line, so if we went dark I could call back in from my cell phone. I also scrambled to set up my fully-charged laptop and hotspot as backup, figuring I could switch gears and re-launch the meeting from my laptop if necessary.
We launched on time. But when the power went out again 30 minutes into my presentation, we lost several minutes while I fiddled around to get us back up. Considering that I’m in a technology-based business, I felt like an idiot. Ultimately, attendees of all three sessions found my presentation well worth their time, but I was still mad at myself.
For many years I’ve been dependent upon electricity to run my business. Until recently, I never experienced a loss of it during a key moment. Is that why after my backup power supply died in the spring I forgot to replace it? Or was I once again operating without a plan?
Fortunately, I have the capacity to learn from my mistakes. I replaced my backup power supply a few days later.
Now I’m wondering what else I’m not prepared to handle. Are there other important business activities I’m at risk of jeopardizing? Any thoughts?
To begin with, thank you for sharing the story with us. I am kind of ashamed to say that as I was reading it I had this smile of understanding right on my face. And not to say that your storry is funny! It's just that I believe we all are dependent on technology nowadays, most of us clearly over-dependent, believing it will not fail us and help us socialize, communicate and grow our businesses. However I bet that every single one of us has experienced technology malfunctions and usually during those critical moments (like printers suddenly rebelling when you need them the most). I don't really think, no matter how hard you try, you can be prepared for everything. And as your business grows there are more and more possibilities for the technology to fail us.We just have to hope for the best ;)
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