Running a business (any business) is a complicated task that can be broken down into a set of smaller tasks. These tasks need to be identified, prioritized and then have time allocated for them. While everything I listed above seems like it ought to be easy the time management aspect of it is something of an art.
Now, in a larger organization, there are different departments to deal with different areas of the business. This allows for some reallocation of resources when it is required.
For example, if a company if getting ready for a trade show, people from many different departments can “donate” time to helping pack up displays and equipment while technical support engineers can help test and pre-configure equipment. In this respect, the entire company can pitch in making a huge task run a bit more smoothly.
Of course, most WISP start-ups do not have that kind of resources, In fact, most of the WISPs I am familiar with are a one man show with perhaps a couple of employees, at best. Many use contract labor for installations and basically run everything else from the sales and customer support right through the billing themselves. This can make for one long day.
The real killer is the unforeseen emergency or as we like to call it the Crisis d’Jour. The reason why I picked this topic to talk about is that we have learned the hard way that this is something that can be minimized to a certain extent with a little forethought.
Here are some of the methods we try to utilize in an attempt to head off these unplanned disasters.
Rule number one –
Never use consumer grade (read cheap) equipment in functions that are critical.
Rule number two –
Identify single points of failure and either build in redundancy or have a hot spare ready.
Rule number three –
Never expect you can schedule an entire day.
This last rule is the most critical. If your luck is anything like mine the minute you load up your schedule with installations, appointments and whatever else you can damn well expect a crisis to occur.
A fellow WISP I know went out of town recently on a consulting job just in time to see his network almost grind to a screeching halt due to a virus infection. This really isn’t something that can be planned for or 100% sure protections put into place.
A little while ago, we were adding another frame to our network and Verizon brought the frame up on a Friday (no notice as usual) taking down our entire network. Naturally, we had no knowledge of what had killed our upstream connection and after a few minutes on the phone with their tech support people we understood the ramifications of what had happened. Or, I should probably say, we felt it was too much of a coincidence that the new frame had been added and our network had crashed at the same time. We asked Verizon to take the new frame down (of course, they said that wasn’t the problem) and when we finally convinced them to do it our connection to our upstream provider came back up.
Of course, I had scheduled a meeting with a new client that morning that I had to call the customer and let them know I needed to reschedule. This, of course, is not a good way to start off a new business relationship.
Ah well, it could have been worse I suppose…