July 15, 2010: Great American Book Coaching Tour, traveling from Portland, OR to Santa Rosa, CA. Down the twisting, turning Hwy 101, of course. The plan was to hop on the even more windy Hwy 1 once we entered a truly scenic section of CA. My turn to drive, and suddenly my seatbelt went slack. I pulled. It didn’t retract. I tugged. We pried open the mechanism. Nothing. Nada. I’m doing 70 mph down a winding highway fussing with a seat belt that seems to have suddenly broken. And we have to get to the hotel to check in and keep our schedule. You guessed it, panic started to set in. How can we keep our schedule if the seat belt is broken, we have to find a dealer, and most likely they don’t keep spare seat belt parts in stock?
At this point we grab my trusty CrackBerry and look up the nearest Mazda dealer (the GoogleMaps application for BlackBerry is awesome, by the way). We call the dealer, which is only 10 minutes from our current high-speed position, and tell them we’ll be there in 10 minutes. I’m familiar with my dealer at home, so I drive right up to the back into the service entrance and proceed to surprise the really nice guys who work there (I guess I wasn’t supposed to go in the back door…oops). Being awesome customer service reps, they welcomed me with open arms and told me it would be a few hours to check out the problem. They offered to shuttle us to the mall, but we were content to sit in the waiting area, read, and fester about not making it to the next spot on our tour on time. OK, I admit, I was doing most of the festering.
After about 10 minutes I remembered a problem with the windshield wiper that we were having and got up to tell the rep to check it out, too. Might as well get a complete safety check while we were there. We had just driven this little car over 4,000 miles! The rep appeared in the waiting area first and shook his head. I feared the worst – two days, they have to order new seat belts. Nothing we can do, California has seat belt laws. Then he suddenly smiled and told me they fixed the problem. Yeah, in only 10 minutes! Turns out the belts were a little dirty and sticking (well, we had just driven the car through 8 states and a few deserts) and to top it off, the real problem was that we had crammed too much stuff behind the seats, pressing on the mechanism. We laughed, had a few free M&M’s and the rep offered to wash our car – free of charge. Oh how I LOVE Mazda! 🙂
While the smeared bugs were getting scrubbed off the poor car’s headlights, I got to thinking… How many times do we cram so much “junk”, even stuff we think we really need, into our lives? And how often does that stuff we try to fit into every day jam up, leaving us no time for the truly important things – family, friends, relationships – and turn the safety off our businesses and lives? Think about it. If you don’t take a break from business once in a while, you’re liable to head for a major accident. And if you have no safety belt on your business, when you hit that median you’ll be flung far enough to cause some serious damage. And the damage will go beyond just your business to affect those relationships you value so much.
So how can you make sure the safety belt is working and secured on your business? Here are a few ideas:
1. Have multiple streams of income. These include hard-copy products like books, audio CDs, info-products, affiliates, joint-venture partnerships, services, workshops, seminars, speaking engagements, coaching… and more! If the safety belt gets stuck with one stream, you’re not flung from the cab. You simply transfer to another stream, and it takes up the slack.
2. Protect your investments and plan for contingencies. Remote back-up systems for your company files are awesome and worth every penny. In addition, get a website maintenance plan that includes your sites being automatically backed up to a separate server every day. I can vouch for this one personally. I made some changes to one of my sites that caused the formatting to completely mess up. Within minutes, I was able to get the backup restored and the site was as good as new! Normally people would be waylaid for days, but because of daily backup, my web site was safe and more importantly, current.
3. Don’t forget what’s important. At the end of the day, your business is your income – nothing more. It is not your entire life (at least it shouldn’t be). Even if you encounter failures from time to time, focus on your relationships. Keep your spouse, kids, friends and associates close (in that order). When you do have a “safety belt emergency” in your business, your support structure will be there to guide and comfort you through it. You’ll have people in the waiting room with you, holding your hand, handing you M&M’s and letting you know everything will be OK. And that is priceless.