Negotiating the rapids on the self-employment river part 1: Contingency planning

by Mark G. Auerbach

I started my own consulting group 25 years ago, and over the years have helped clients develop crisis management plans, contingency plans, and other strategies to address the “what if?” issues.

I didn’t initially have a “what if?” contingency for my own business. I should have. I live with a chronic disease. I could juggle an occasional sick day here or there; I could set my own schedule to build in naptime on a day when I was tired. I got by, without my

clients ever feeling shortchanged by my failure to produce quality work on time.

I’m not alone. Most colleagues haven’t planned for an emergency. In polling several people in preparation for this article, only two other people had a plan.

Sue Martin, former Senior Director of Public Affairs for Amtrak, runs Co-Creative Works, a public relations consultancy in Salt Lake City. She worked as a sub-contractor to a technical writer/editor at another company.

“With the possibility of illness or catastrophe in mind, the client copies me on all correspondence with her client, makes sure I have copies of all document updates, and, when possible, includes me in client meetings,” says Martin. “The additional cost is minimal compared to the peace of mind (for all of us), knowing that I could step in and complete the project if necessary.”

About ten years ago, a colleague called me. His father had unexpectedly passed away a few days before an important event. He asked if I could step in. My client schedule was flexible, so I did an hour phone chat with him, read the backgrounders on the event, and jumped in.

I developed my own plan after that. I have a colleague who does a similar kind of work as I. We’ve shared projects and clients in the past, and are both quick studies. If I anticipate an issue, I fill him in as my projects progress. I have peace of mind.

My go-to guy for event production and my entire production team have files of schedules, contact numbers, and a list of who is responsible for what. The production schedules are updated frequently. If I need to step away, an event will run without problems.

In public relations instances, my clients get frequently updated media lists, so they can produce a media release (from a template) if need be. They all know how to update their social media, should I have to step away. My media buys are shared with advertising rep, designer, and client. They can proceed and communicate with each other, if I’m absent.

I’ll hire a stand-in, if I anticipate a problem. It’s good for peace-of-mind, both the client’s and mine. Two of my former colleagues are in jobs where they can handle my work, and they know my work style and clients.

I’m also upfront with my clients. They know about my health condition. Knock on wood, luck is on my side. I’ve only missed12 days in the last two years, and never have had to put a contingency plan into action. But, I’m ready.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn.

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