Dear Danielle: What Is Your Backup Plan?

Dear Danielle:

There’s a discussion happening on a coaching listserv where some coaches are wondering what our “backup plan” is as someone who runs an administrative support business. How do you respond to this? –SA

Well, at the root of this is some miseducation of the marketplace. This is the kind of question that usually comes from a client who thinks he or she is hiring an employee.

First, it’s really important to educate clients that when they engage you, they are working with a service provider—a business–and not an employee.

The service we provide (ongoing administrative support) is an alternative to employees; not the same thing as employees. That means, there are necessarily gonig to be some differences in how and when you work together.

One way to avoid this confusion altogether is by not calling yourself an assistant. Because people only understand that word one way: employee.

Assistant is a term of employment that should have no place in your business vocabulary. Simple as that.

Now, when it comes to backup plans, I would say this:

A backup plan is a good thing to have for your business.

That means, having some kind of risk management plan in place to mitigate issues and other unforeseen events and catastrophes that arise from seriously interrupting or interfering with your ability to conduct your business and assist clients–and make money.

You might also want to formalize your vacation and minor emergency (such as illness) policies, as well as what happens if you are unable to fulfill any contractual obligations (e.g., partial refunds) and add that information to your client guide.

That way, when you consult with clients, you can let them know right from the beginning that you periodically take vacations or that you try to give XX days advance notice; and that in the event of minor emergencies, you might be “closed” on occasion.

Those are just simple client-friendly policies and courtesies to have, and lets them know what to expect.

All that said, it’s very important that you understand the distinction between being a smart business owner and knowing what you are (and are not) obligated to provide for clients:  It’s not your job to have a backup plan in place for clients. You aren’t their employee; you’re a service provider to them.

No client’s business should be so dependent upon your services that it can’t run without you.

Their business is never your responsibility; you are each responsible for your own business.

So if they want a backup plan, then they are the ones who need to put that in place in their business, not you (although you might assist a client with that if you so choose).

The colleagues I associate with are honorable and do all they can to fulfill their contractual obligations. If they can’t, I am confident they will do whatever is fair in the situation.

But that’s where your responsibility ends as a business owner.

If for some reason you are unable to provide services to clients for any extended length of time, they have the same recourse all of us has when we deal with any business that has closed or no longer meets our needs–which is to take their business elsewhere.

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