Better have a contingency plan in place  

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

It’s probably happened to you. You drive the same road every day, pass the same gas stations and billboards. Then one day you’re driving past a strip center and you see a sign and a shop that you have never noticed before.

If your experience is anything like mine, you may even pass that strip center and business several times before you decide to check it out.

A promising start

For me, the business was a cool little coffee place I’ll call The Angry Bean. I probably drove by dozens of times before deciding to see what they are all about. Being a typical consumer in 2024, I didn’t take the easy route of parking in the lot and walking to the door. I got out my trusty iFruit phone and googled the place. I was expecting to find a cookie-cutter joint serving fancy-schmancy lattes for $6 a cup backed up by cellophane-wrapped, ready-made pastries selling for twice the market value.

It was a pleasant surprise to see that The Angry Bean is locally owned (and operated!). The website was very well done, with the menu and prices in an easy-to-read format. They added in some nice photos, recommendations and a Facebook link. Your IT team would be proud.

The Angry Bean was definitely on my radar. The website showed they were open until 8 p.m., and we planned a first-time visit as a cap-off to a family celebration.  

As our day was winding down, I could almost taste the flat white and cinnamon scone that was photographed so vividly on the Angry Bean website. We pulled into the parking lot, saw the lit marquee. Then we stopped in our tracks.

Unforeseen calamity

Taped on the window was a hastily written sign: “Due to unforeseen employee issues, this Angry Bean location is closed until further notice. If you would like to join our team, please call us at …”  Based on the date on the sign, the business had been shut for nearly a week, but was still paying rent and overhead due to lack of personnel!

We were disappointed, but I was more amazed at the situation. How does a business get into such a poor employee predicament that they have to lose money for almost a week? Here are some possibilities:

  • They failed to have an ongoing recruiting program and process. Recruiting is a 364-day-a-year effort for all retail stores.
  • They failed to properly train and compensate their employees. This led people to leave for greener fields.
  • They failed to properly staff their store. Chances are their remaining staff was overwhelmed, overworked or overscheduled.
  • They failed to have a Plan B (B for backup). People may not quit every day. But people get sick and have personal emergencies. A backup plan would ensure some store coverage.
  • They failed to use their website to recruit people or inform patrons that the location would not be open.

Angry Bean is surrounded by Arby’s, McDonalds, Subway and White Castle, along with a local pizza joint and Chinese take-out place. All those businesses were open and operating. The Angry Bean failed to position itself as “the place to work” on their street.

Plan ahead to avoid disaster

There’s a good chance you are sitting in your store reading this. Good work on opening the doors today! But think about it, how close are you to being an Angry Bean?  What if your car failed to start, or you got sick or called away, or decided to attend a market event or trade show? Is there a backup plan in place for your business? Can you imagine the effect of having your store closed for a week or more, just because no one was available to work there?

Successful companies grow by having the right people in the right place and a drawer full of resumes to pull when someone leaves the business.

Plan today to recruit and sustain your sales and operations force. Be sure you’ve weighed the cost of fair compensation for their work vs. the cost of having to close. Once hired, be sure to implement plans to develop your leaders for tomorrow.  

And above all, keep plenty of scones and coffee on hand!

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at

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