The importance of contingency planning

If your business relies on you for key tasks that need to be done, this tale from Steve Wake, the owner of Sherwood Cabinets in Nottinghamshire, is a salutary lesson on the need for good insurance and contingency planning…

Steve Wake skiing accident

It was well into the 2022 winter sports season and, as I’ve done for the past 30-odd years, I’d booked a ski trip to Geneva. Except this one was different – it only lasted a day.

The picture here shows me at around 3pm on day one. I’d been heading back to base after a day’s skiing when the worst happened.

I have no recollection of the five seconds before or after the crash, but the sound of my leg snapping is one that will live with me for a long time.

The French rescue services were amazing and I was back at my chalet by around 7pm. My leg was in a pot and I had strict instructions to get home as soon as possible as I needed further surgery.

My friend, who’d stayed with me the whole time, handed me back my credit card, which had been well used to pay all the people involved in my rescue and medical treatment to that point.

But once I knew I could be mended, the worry about the future of my business started to kick in. Thankfully, my wife had quickly got on to our insurers, NFU, to start the process of getting me home. One phone call and it was all arranged.

Because there were no direct flights that could give me two seats, I had to fly from Geneva to Paris and then Paris to Manchester. I had assistance and a chaperon and they literally put me in my seat and met me at the other end, where I was picked up by a private ambulance and taken to my local A&E.

Happily, the surgery was a success and I’m starting the long road to recovery. But, when something like this happens, it sharpens your focus on how you’ll continue to run your business.

It also made me reflect on the importance of having the right travel, medical and business insurances and I would urge you to do the same.

Without insurance for the repatriation and in-resort recovery medical costs, I would be out of pocket to the tune of around £6,000. My ongoing rehab could easily tot up to another £1,000.

So, if you slide or ride down mountains on skis, boards or bikes, ride horses, hang-glide, climb, run, cycle on the road or play weekend football, make sure you have cover in place.

When something like this happens, it sharpens your focus on how you’ll continue to run your business

Steve Wake, Sherwood Cabinets
Steve Wake from Sherwood Cabinets
Steve Wake from Sherwood Cabinets

Business model pre-accident

What I do here at Sherwood Cabinets is pretty simple and I imagine there are others like me. Here’s a quick snapshot of how things worked pre-accident:

• Virtually all my work is via recommendation. I deal with the customers from initial face-to-face design briefings to install.
• I have a dedicated home office and small workshop where I sometimes manufacture, but mainly store cabinets and doors that are sourced separately along with accessories and appliances.
• I personally install about one kitchen in four and all of the bedrooms with a wingman to assist. The fit money is a little bonus and I enjoy seeing my designs come to life.
• I also have a house renovation business with a builder who project-manages the jobs from start to finish. My only involvement is supplying the kitchens. While this is the most stress-free part of the business, it can impact cash flow, so I have to be on top of things.

Business model post-accident

• I’ll still do the designs, but the initial meeting will be by telephone or Zoom and based on architect’s plans and/or customer sketches. One of my fitters will do the site surveys and the complete kitchens will be delivered by a two-man delivery service the day before install.
• The workshop will be redundant for a while as the doors will be delivered direct to the cabinet manufacturers and, for a small charge, they’ll drill and deliver with the cabinets. Fitters will install all accessories on site for a small cost per item. Luckily the workshop is zero cost.
• For at least the next few months, my regular fitters will do all the installations and the bedrooms will be taken care of by a cracking guy who’s worked for me on and off since leaving school and whom I put
through college.
• The property renovation side of things can carry on uninterrupted.
• New business opportunities and contacts will be explored once I’m able to drive again, and I’m looking forward to being able to devote time to this, as before the accident as I was always on an install.

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