TEAM WORKS: THE PERILS OF NOT KNOWING WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW

As a cloud-based business, our distributed team only gets together twice a year. Cue the Gold Coast and our annual strategic planning conference! Peeps flew in from Perth, Sydney and Auckland and our facilitator joined us from Northern NSW.

For such a small team you might think we really know each other and what each of us does. And as experts in communication, I’d forgive you for thinking we’re good at… you know… talking. That’s what I thought! But I was wrong.

I learned so much about my co-workers this year. Marina (our ops manager) has a wicked sense of humour. She is a keen observer of all our human foibles. Susan (our digital solutions manager) knows her software better than the help desk. Susan knows exactly who does what – and who doesn’t.

But there were three things we didn’t know. Three things that surprised me.

Thing 1

Three months ago, our social media and digital assets team set up an RSS feed. The feed was supposed to deliver the latest research in fundraising techniques. But it never got to those it was made for!

The recipients thought the team hadn’t had a chance to develop it.

The development team thought the recipients didn’t notice all their hard work.

Our wires weren’t just crossed – they were disconnected.

Thing 2

Our CEO wanted to sort products using our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. She (and I) didn’t know that the button labelled ‘sort’ did exactly what she wanted.

Susan knew that it sorted products. What she didn’t know was that we wanted to, or that we didn’t know that the ‘sort’ button ‘sorted’ things.

Let’s just say… Problem sorted.

Tip: visit here to find out how to choose the right CRM for you.

Thing 3

Once upon a time we had a staff meeting about the features of our CRM. A team member had to step out on a call and missed a small – but vital – feature. They didn’t know you could edit a small detail of the job without editing the whole record.

Who knows how much time they lost editing jobs the hard way?

When things add up

None of these three things were earth shattering. Each one is tiny, but added together may have wasted thousands of hours a year across the team. Now that we know Things 1, 2, and 3 we can reduce staff frustration and improve productivity.

What have you assumed is happening that isn’t? What dumb questions should you be asking?

What are the ‘Things’ in your business that you don’t know?

If you need some help, here are a few resources:

46 tips to help improve your business

77 business improvements in 77 days.

Oh, and we came up with a five-year plan for world domination – so watch this space.

You’ve already selected promotional channels (emails, blog posts, social media, fliers) and dreamed up creative concepts and colour palettes while downing a ‘chardy’ with your creative agency.

It may be tempting to throw the planners out the door, but there’s every chance you’ll be eroding the success of your campaign by skipping a few vital steps.

So here are three common mistakes when crafting a campaign plan and how to avoid them.

Mistake One: No goal. No success.

Stephen Covey was on to something when he coined the phrase ‘begin with the end in mind’ in his infamous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

What does success look like?

Hit pause on the planning. Take out a pen and paper (or a digital alternative).

And start to play out what your end goal will be.

Is it about raising $1 million with a compelling, yet authentic, fundraising appeal?

Is it to register 100 new clients to your mailing list?

Are you selling something?

Leading a change within your organisation?

Whatever it is, imagine you’ve reached the conclusion of the campaign and get specific on what the outcome will be. How do you want your audience to feel? What do you want them to do as a result? And how you will measure it?

You may also like to prioritise your ideas by issues that are most important to your business. This will help with the decision-making process later when you’re creating your plan.

Popular communications blogger Ragan.com says: “Goals are the overall thing you want to change or affect, not the activity itself. They must tie into the overall company strategy and the specific objectives of your organization. Make them clear, concise and concrete.”

So, what can you learn from Mistake One: Avoid the common mistake of jumping straight into the detail. Climb the proverbial tree and take the long-range view of the forest. See what you want your campaign to achieve and how you’ll measure it… or you won’t see the forest for the trees.

Mistake Number Two: Audience? What audience?

The audience for your campaign plan, sometimes known as stakeholders, are the people you want to engage with your message.

Your goal is to mobilise them to do something such as (for example) read this, go to this website, buy this.

Being clear on your audience has three benefits:

  • It helps you classify the specific groups of people you’re targeting.
  • It helps you tailor your messaging and call-to-action to their interests and needs.
  • It quickly reveals who is missing, or who has been left off the list.

Your fundraising campaign may require audience segmentation by demographics, donor history or preference, allowing you to tailor content by relevance and need. There are some great tips for fundraisers in this article by Constant Contact.

Your content marketing plan will categorise where your audience are segmented across social media land.

Or your launch event may include a combination of stakeholders ranging from customers, employees, media, shareholders and government.

What to learn from Mistake Two: Map it out to play it out. Map out your different audience groups in your plan. Include detail on what they need to know and when they need to know it.

Mistake Number Three: Uh… What’s the point? Inconsistent messaging.

Pulling the plan together is one thing but what is the plan all about? What’s the point?

The point, the big idea, the reason you’re even doing it – is called your key message. The ‘key message’ is a fancy term for saying what you want your audience to know and react to.

Within your plan, you want an overarching set of key messages – 4 or 5 key points – and then more messaging per relevant topic. Welcome to the world of copywriting…

Missing the mark on messaging can result in:

  • Your audience won’t nail the big idea of the campaign… the point, the action, the vibe.
  • You won’t have consistency across your plan, which will dilute its effectiveness.
  • Other people will be inconsistent in executing your plan – they’ll all use different words to describe it.
  • You won’t reach your goal.

You’ll want to record the key messages in the campaign plan, so anyone anywhere can easily execute your brilliant plan.

And don’t forget to prioritise your keywords to help your SEO ranking if there is a digital element to your campaign.

What to learn from Mistake Three: Your key messages are what you want your audience to remember and act upon. Make sure they are clearly set out in your plan to ensure consistency in the implementation and across all collateral.

Need some help with your plan?

The communications and marketing team in your business are the gurus at this type of thing, so check-in for help. If you’re a small business and it’s just you – well, you can find virtually anything on the interweb these days. Here are some helpful sites to get you started:

Practical inbound marketing campaign

Planning a campaign

Write a marketing plan

And you can always contact us at The Copy Collective to help you craft clever key messages or a compelling campaign plan that will help you get results.

It was an evening like any other. I certainly wasn’t expecting to become a Facebook sensation. It was Tuesday, 19 May 2015 and I needed to change my bed. As usual, my greyhound Bruce was sound asleep on the bed and showed no signs of moving. It was such a common occurrence that I had developed a way to change the bottom sheet without kicking Bruce off.

Given his levels of resistance, it’s actually easier to work around him than it is to get him off the bed. A friend found our ‘slip and slide routine’ to be very amusing, and so he convinced me to post a video of Bruce and my bed-making antics on Facebook. And so on the night of 19 May, I did.

Launch 19 May – night

Once I had captured the moment, I posted the video on my Facebook account and I shared the video with the Greyhound Adoptions WA Facebook page around 8pm that night. Their organisation had rescued Bruce in 2012 and I adopted him shortly after. I know they’re always keen to receive updates about their rescue dogs, and I knew they would appreciate the video. Greyhound Adoptions WA reshared the video the next morning. What I didn’t anticipate was how much everybody else would love it…

The next day:

Wednesday, 20 May 6pm

8 hours after Greyhound Adoptions WA reshared the video

Views: 4,500

Likes: 102

The day after that:

Thursday, 21 May 7am

Views: 40,910

Likes: 262

Bruce the video star was spreading like wildfire! Greyhound enthusiasts had shared it with other greyhound rescue groups and related pages. Then there were other dog lovers in the general public, who had shared it with their immediate networks. Facebook was sending me multiple notifications per minute as people liked, shared, and commented on the video.

Three days later:

Sunday, 24 May 10am

Views: 200,000

Likes: 998

In a week Bruce had travelled from his quiet home in Perth, Western Australia to all the continents except Africa and Antarctica. I couldn’t read half the comments made on the video because they were in languages other than English.

The wind-down

After a week or so, the frequency of notifications had slowed down. And after a fortnight it was a trickle. By this stage I had uploaded the video to YouTube and while it didn’t go viral like on Facebook, it had still received a healthy number of views (260 or so) for a non-celebrity like me. On Wednesday, 3 June the video was shared with another private greyhound rescue group and the notifications kicked up again.

The results… for now

A month after I had shared Bruce’s video, I still receive several notifications a day – sometimes per hour.

As at 21 July the video has had:

Views: 248, 700

Likes: 1,160

Shares: 4,448

Comments: 270

So, this is what I have learned from watching my video go viral:

  1. “You can’t bottle lightning”

Simon Low from Buzzfeed said “you can’t bottle lightning” when he was discussing #thedress. However,  while you can’t predict what will go viral,  you can make a ‘best estimate’ and tailor your videos and other content to be ‘viral friendly’. You need to have a plan for riding the wave of popularity. Read this great analysis from the team at McCann who created the award-winning Dumb Ways to Die campaign.

Have your team ready to respond to comments – learn from me and make sure some of them speak languages other than English!

  1. Make people laugh

If you can make somebody laugh, you will instantly build a positive and lasting emotional connection. One wouldn’t expect a campaign about safety around railway tracks would go viral – it’s a serious topic, it’s on behalf of a government body – these aren’t the elements that we associate with wildfire social media contagion. But the Dumb Ways to Die campaign demonstrates that with great content – and making people laugh – you can achieve anything.

What sets laughter apart from other emotional expressions is that it is uniquely human and contagious.

When a person finds a funny video they share it with their friends.

The greyhound and the bed-maker is a heartwarming double act. There’s this gangly dog, in a coat, who is just too chilled out to move. There’s me – the bed maker – just getting on with the job. Clearly, I’ve long ago given up trying to move that dog off the bed. It’s a classic animal video and it makes people laugh.

You may think that your content isn’t going to make people laugh. Seek inspiration from this great board on Pinterest.

  1. Know your audience

Sharing a heart-warming video of a greyhound to a group of ‘houndies’ (what greyhound rescuers like to call themselves) is going to be a success every time. Houndies are known for their obsession and evangelical commitment to the breed. Houndies are a niche audience, but they’re a niche audience with connections that spread far and wide. From there you only need a few more dog lovers, animal lovers and people who just need a break — to share as well.

So what demographics or characteristics do your audience members share? The people at Sprout Social are experts in demographics. Learn from them!

  1. What’s your aim in #goingviral?

What do you want to achieve with #going viral? While making the video was the spur of the moment thing for me, by posting it I hoped to achieve a few things.

Firstly, I wanted to thank Greyhound Adoptions WA. By adopting Bruce, we gained a much-loved member of the family. That wouldn’t have been possible without the hard-working team at Greyhound Adoptions WA. By sharing the video with them, I was giving them some content that they could share and re-post on social media. Our good friends at CoSchedule write some great posts on reposting and repurposing content.

Greyhound Adoptions WA has approximately 130 new followers on Facebook and at least half of those liked the page during the week following Bruce’s video. Hopefully, those 130 people are actively engaging with the group by adopting, fostering or donating – I wouldn’t know. If Greyhound Adoptions WA has good social media analytics and can track their audience they will know what they actually gained. Analytics are crucial when it comes to #goingviral. If you’re the type to yawn at data, try reading this delightfully-short guide to social media ROI from Buffer.

Another thing I wanted to achieve was to make people laugh. While my video of Bruce may not have achieved anything tangible knowing that some 200,000 people were motivated to watch it and most likely ended up laughing is a great feeling. We know that laughing is beneficial, so try to make people laugh – even if only for a few minutes.

Finally, I also hope the video has helped to dispel the common myth that greyhounds are a high maintenance, energetic pet. While Bruce might need some maintenace – he needs a coat and clean sheets on his my bed – you can clearly see he’s not the type to be jumping up and down. Educating an audience is a great aim for social media content.

Plan in advance what you want to achieve – is it brand recognition, a change in people’s behaviour, audience education or some other call to action? Whatever your goal, make  your call to action (CTA) clear and compelling.

  1. Satisfying your audience’s needs is important

It’s not always about money. I was able to share a touching moment with my dog and show how Greyhound Adoptions WA’s rescue efforts and hard work really do pay off. It was a small thank you to the people who work to save greyhounds from pointless death.

Watchers of the Bruce the video star were all left with a warm fuzzy feeling and, in that respect, my video did exactly what it was supposed to.

I didn’t make any money from my video of Bruce. I have no merchandise to sell and I haven’t angled for any sponsorship deals with pet food companies. As far as I know, Greyhound Adoptions WA didn’t receive a sudden influx of donations or people wanting to adopt rescued greyhounds (although they may have).

However, the video brightened people’s lives, it gave Greyhound Adoptions WA some great content to repost and it made me realise that while making the bed with an unresponsive greyhound is just a typical part of my week it’s interesting to hundreds of thousands of other people.

What interests your audience? What would make them feel good about watching, reading or listening to content that you have created? What need do they have that you can satisfy?

So what is next for Bruce?

Bruce won’t be getting a Facebook page or YouTube channel any time soon… Mostly he will be sleeping and eating, sleeping some more, and walking… and sleeping, and looking awkward, then sleeping again… Honestly, he’s the laziest greyhound that’s every lived. But I wouldn’t replace him for the world.

One of the fantastic things about the Internet is the amount of new information and ideas there is to learn everyday. One of the downsides is the amount of new information and ideas there is to learn everyday.

If you want to keep up with the latest and greatest in digital copywriting, content marketing, and social media management, then here are 10 buzzwords you really need to know.

1.     Backlinks

Search engine optimisation is more than just keywords. Algorithms used by the likes of Google and Yahoo examine several factors to calculate the ranking of pages when returning search results. One of these is backlinks.

Backlinks are also known as inbound links because they link to your website and thus the traffic is inbound to your domain. Put another way, a backlink occurs when a third party website links back to yours.

Backlinks are assessed as an indicator of the trustworthiness; the more backlinks to your site, the more trustworthy it is. Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as just the numbers; your backlink profile is more than the sum of your backlinks. I recommend you check out Google’s Penguin 2.0 Algorithm: The Definitive Guide at Search Engine Watch for more information about backlinks and what they mean for your link profile.

2.     Brand journalism

Brand journalism is the development and production of brand news content in the style of traditional, mainstream journalism. It can go as far as establishing an onsite newsroom, staffed with editors and journalists, or a publication division that creates content and coordinates print and digital distribution.

Horizons Magazine published by RAC WA, and Cisco’s technology news site The Network, are both examples of brand journalism.

For most businesses, brand journalism is more like an evolved company newsletter: the focus is on providing useful, unbiased information to consumers that is more than just company and product updates. The key here is focusing on the consumer – not the brand.

For an enjoyable crash course in brand journalism I suggest you listen to the entire back catalogue of the Brand Newsroom podcast.

3.     C-suite

Photo of Dominique Antarakis and Maureen Shelley standing side-by-side in front of a pale background.

This is our C-suite: CEO Dominique Antarakis and COO Maureen Shelley

C-suite is the collective term for the traditional executive positions within a company such as chief executive officer, chief operating officer, and chief financial officer. It may reference the use of the word “chief” in these titles but it also applies to equivalent titles such as managing director and president.

Jenna Goudreau at forbes.com wrote C is for Silly: The New C-suite Titles and observes:

In the past few years, the c-suite has exploded its members, knighting nearly every department head with new, inventive chief titles likely dreamed up by the marketing team.

Most of these titles seem to identify human resources objectives and include “chiefs of happiness, people, diversity, culture, talent, observance and employee engagement”. Yet very few of these “chiefs” have any real power within a company.

The C-suite is the decision-making body of a brand or company – it does not include people with “vanity titles”. Whether that is a single director or a board of chiefs, they are the people you go to when you need approval for finance or a project. The C-suite are the people with power.

4.     Content economy

The film “Sneakers” was released in 1992. It’s a heist caper, but instead of stealing money the thieves are stealing an encryption decoder. Towards the end of the film, Cosmo (played by Ben Kingsly) tried to convince his one-time friend Martin (played by Robert Redford) to join his cause. Cosmo argues:

The world isn’t run by weapons anymore. Or energy or money. It’s run by little ones and zeros – little bits of data… It’s all about the information!

Cosmo wasn’t far off. Security and surveillance aside, a lot of commentators are convinced we now live in a “content economy”. But what on earth does that mean?

Simply put, an economy is the processes a society/community/country uses to determine what is produced and how it will be distributed (this definition is taken from What is an economy/economic system?).

And content? Content is the presentation of information. The traditional definition is “the subjects or topics covered in a book or document” (from dictionary.com) but in the era of digital technology it also includes formats such as video and audio recordings, blog posts, social media feeds, infographics, and more.

In a content economy, the currency used to facilitate the production and distribution of resources is content. Tom Channick on VentureBeat observes:

A surprising transformation across the media industry has happened in the span of a few years as content has emerged as the central currency linking brands and publishers.

Brands are becoming publishers and publishers are selling themselves like brands. Goods and services are sold to consumers via content marketing, and more businesses are creating content sharing arrangements with distributors in order to grow their audience.

To paraphrase Cosmo, it’s all about the content.

5.     Content marketing

This blog is content marketing.  There. I said it.

If you want to know about content marketing then you really can’t go past the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). CMI was founded by Joe Pulizzi – who practically invented the term “content marketing” (he said so on the This Old Marketing podcast) – and is arguably one of the most recognised content marketing organisations in the world.

You can find six definitions of content marketing on CMI and a further 21 definitions provided by content marketers on heidicohen.com.

The gist of it is: instead of selling products and services directly to consumers via advertising and traditional marketing, brands produce and curate useful and interesting content for their target audience. Over the long term, the brand becomes a familiar and trustworthy resource and consumers reward the brand by purchasing and using their products and services.

Naturally, content marketing can be done well and it can be done poorly. The key is figuring out the types of content your brand audience wants and the best way to deliver that content to them.

6.     Digital native

A digital native is a person born during and after the widespread adoption of digital technologies. It was first coined by Marc Prensky in 2001 in the paper “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants“. While the paper discussed challenges in education, the concept of “digital natives” has been widely adopted in diverse fields including marketing, research, and human resources.

Digital natives grow up with digital technology and typically were born post-1980. However there is no exact cut-off because digital technologies and their applications spread at different rates according to geography, politics, socioeconomic factors and the like. Digital natives are balanced by “digital immigrants” who didn’t grow up with digital technology and thus adopted it later in life.

The key point to remember about digital natives is: just because somebody grew up with the technology doesn’t mean they know how to use it. Digital literacy varies so don’t assume people who grew up with the technology know more than those who adopted it.

7.     Growth hacking

When people use the term “growth hacking” what they mean is… Something to do with start-ups and growing audiences…

Well, there is no standard definition. Wikipedia maps the history of growth hacking and goes through as many definitions as there are years since 2010 (when the term was first coined), and Quora has 39 answers to the question “What is growth hacking?” There is a lot of variance but common themes are using non-traditional marketing techniques, an emphasis on “virality”, minimising expenditure, and coding or engineering.

There’s a lot of debate about what growth hacking is, if it is actually something, and if that something is a good thing. Sarah Pirez at TechCrunch looks at “When Growth Hacking Goes Bad“; David Rowan at Wired Magazine asks if growth hacking is “hype or the holy grail for startups?” and Mark Macdonald from American Apparel argues that growth hacking is “the future of marketing“.

But really, the only person who truly seems to understand growth hacking is Dilbert:

Dilbert comic strip. The first panel shows an employee approaching their manager saying,

Dilbert comic strip from Thursday July 10, 2014. Nobody really knows what growth hacking is.

8.     Intelligent content

Intelligent content is the next evolution of content, and no – it does not involve content becoming self-aware and trying to take over the world!

Ann Rockley, founder of the Intelligent Content Conference, defines intelligent content as:

structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.

To really understand what that means, you should read Robert Rose’s “Intelligent Content Demystified: A Practical, Easy-to-Understand Explanation” on the CMI website. However a simpler explanation is to imagine a digital library (much like current online library catalogues and databases) that includes all of your content, is easily searchable (by computers and humans), and is fully automated so relevant content is displayed to a consumer without a person first searching for it.

It sounds awesome.

9.     Native advertising

Native advertising is paid content that matches a publication’s editorial standards while meeting the audience’s expectations.

The above definition of native advertising is thoughtfully provided by Demian Farnworth at copyblogger.com in a post that examines 12 examples of native ads (and why they work). It’s a good read and is as enlightening as any other discussion out there.

Of course, what’s a new catch phrase without its nay-sayers? For an alternative view, Robert Rose argues that native advertising is neither “native” nor “advertising”. It’s also a regular point of contention on the That Old Marketing podcast he co-hosts with Joe Pulizzi.

10.   White paper

And for our final buzzword: the white paper.

“White paper” is derived from “white book”: an official publication of national government policy.

It can be a guide or report that provides information to assist readers understand a specific issue or problem, or it can be a persuasive paper written to argue on behalf of the author’s position or philosophy on an issue.

Within the context of government, a white paper is often used to present the evidence and arguments for a government policy, with the aim of persuading readers that said policy is a good one. In the context of business enterprise, it’s more likely to be a guide or report presenting new information on a relevant topic, or offering guidance on a product or service. Business white papers have a distinct marketing flavour but that doesn’t make them any less useful.

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab provides a handy Powerpoint that discusses the basics of writing white papers.


And that’s the end of the list – thanks for sticking with it! If you’d like to learn more about the fundamentals of copywriting, then make sure you follow us on FacebookYouTube and Twitter. But right now you can read an introduction to web accessibility or learn how to become a published author.

The Copy Collective is a collective of Australian, New Zealand and other international copywriters whose versatile copywriting skills range from fundraising, marketing and online copywriting to corporate and government writing, feature and speech writing, as well as editing and so much more.

Growing a business isn’t easy. And it doesn’t happen overnight. CEO Dominique Antarakis (@dantarakis) and COO Maureen Shelley (@MaureenShelley) share the six things they’ve learned from growing their small business, The Copy Collective. From the people, the clients and the inspiring work – they’re privileged to do what they do… and they want to thank YOU for making 2014 a great one.
Continue reading

The Copy Collective’s Mr Romance, Jim Butcher, delves into the world of dodgy briefs and hands out some helpful suggestions for navigating your way through.

There’s nothing worse than those cold sweats from fretting over a brief to which you just can’t respond. You’ve spent way too long pondering the job but you still can’t get into the swing of it. Behind the brief
This could be because the brief is inadequate. It happens frequently; so don’t be too surprised. And there are many reasons for it:

  • Perhaps there was more than one person working on the brief. Too many cooks spoiling the broth and all that.
  • For some, creating a watertight brief isn’t important and they just want it off their desks, so what you’ve received could just be a bit of a palm-off.
  • This might be the person’s first brief, you never know.

Whatever the reason, don’t worry. As long as you’ve caught this early enough, there are things you can do. 

Asking the right questions
As you read through your brief, which you should do thoroughly as soon as you can, make sure the following questions are answered. If they’re not, then ask the client:

  • Audience – Whom are you writing for?
  • Tone – does this need a conversational tone? Is it a report or an emotive piece?
  • Purpose – is this going to be a letter asking for donations? A blog post? A promotion or sales pitch?
  • Additional material – is there reference material that hasn’t been provided that may support the information that is attached? Make sure you ask for all relevant material.

If there is a lot of background information, it’s OK to ask for direction on to the specific focus of the piece. Sometimes a client will just give you everything, which is great. But trawling through a 900-page document for a 300-word piece isn’t going to work for you or the client. 

Getting the job done
Ask your questions and plan to ask as many as you need to at once. By planning, you will save your client time on separate phone calls or emails. And if you’re still not clear, ask again.
Your client won’t mind fielding your questions. Deep down, most people know when they’ve written a brief that may be missing the mark. 

Tell us your tricks
So; what do you do if the brief you’ve received isn’t up to scratch? Comment away…

A disaster for one suburban cafe is a learning opportunity for all small businesses, writes Maureen Shelley.

In leafy Lindfield, the day started well for Tablespoon cafe owner Scott. Breakfast business was brisk and the full complement of about 10 staff had turned up and were soon hard at work serving soft-boiled eggs with Turkish toast soldiers and pots of Earl Grey tea to anyone that asked.

Lindfield is on Sydney’s leafy North Shore

Tablespoon is in Tryon Road, Lindfield on Sydney’s North Shore. It’s popular with business types, mums and kids and the grey-haired stay-at-homes who populate the area.
In the adjoining street Downer EDI were carrying out roadworks for Ku-Ring-Gai Council. The hum of machinery could be heard in the cafe but not at an uncomfortable level.
As The Copy Collective’s COO I (Maureen Shelley) was hosting a small business MeetUp in the cafe, as I do every month. One of the attendees noticed the staff packing the chairs in the outside dining area.
A river of comment rippled through the restaurant and people started asking: “What’s going on?”
In Tryon Road, the road workers had hit a Sydney Water main with their machinery and it had burst. The cafe had no water. There was no indication of when there would be water and Scott had decided to cut his losses and close early – just 2 1/2 hours into the day.
“We have no water,” a waiter told the MeetUp members. “We can’t do anything without water.”
Another staff member went around offering the remaining diners the freshly cooked scones to take home for free. Business owner Scott had told all the staff that they would be going home – on full pay, of course, because they hadn’t any notice that they wouldn’t be needed for a full shift.

Lindfield shopping village, corner of Tryon Rd

Not understanding that the water being turned off was accidental rather than planned, Scott was asked if he’d been given notice of the shutdown.
“No,” he said, “And none of the people in the street knows when the water will be back on.
“No one can tell me anything. I can’t run the business like this.”
He said that he did have “business disruption insurance” and that he’d be seeing if he could make a claim.
Tablespoon is open 7am to 5pm most days and operates seven days a week.
One customer (an experienced marketing strategist) estimated that, apart from loss of business revenue and reputation, the restaurant would have had to have paid $3,000 in wages for staff to go home and have a swim. Then there was the food that couldn’t be kept for another day – such as the scones being handed around –  and the losses were starting to mount up.
No one can prevent these things – road workers burst water mains, heat waves keep people home, computers crash – random events can impact on any small business.
So, apart from having business disruption insurance like sensible Scott, what can you do to minimise the damage?

Sign at Tablespoon 16 January 2014
  1. Have a plan
    Thinking about the risks to your business before they happen can help. You may not need to ensure that your executives fly on different planes every time but would it hurt to implement it as a strategy?
  2. Make sure everyone knows what the plan is
    How often has your business paid expensive consultants to develop a business plan and then it has lain around collecting dust? Make the plan short and relevant. Keep it simple – maybe just 10 bullet points that address the most likely things that could hit your business – like computers crashing, the internet being down, the phones being cut off. Simple stuff but can you operate without them?
  3. Take out the insurance and pay the premium
    If disaster does strike, knowing that you have insurance to cover it can make the difference between your business surviving or going through a really tough time.
  4. Look on the bright side – it might be a good thing
    I spoke to a business owner who had a fire that destroyed her business premises. They had good insurance cover and she said to me: “It’s actually quite scary how well we did out of the fire. Everyone was very sympathetic, our business was back up and running within six weeks, we were able to fix all the things that were wrong with the previous processing plant and the insurance company money really saved the day.”

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