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Risky Business

Friday, March 05, 2010
By Carrie Madren

Micro-business owners inevitably assume risks in their pursuit of rewards. To slash the odds of a setback—or worse, a crisis—it’s wise to prevent accidents before they happen.

“Risk management isn’t something you have to do every day,” says Jeffery Zbar, a home office expert who runs ChiefHomeOfficer.com. “But if you don’t do it at all, it can shut you down as a business.”

Risk management steps, such as the four below, will keep your business running smoothly.

RISK: Depending On Your Hard Drive For Storage
SOLUTION: Back Up Your Backup

Duplicate important electronic documents often. By backing up files frequently on a flash drive or external hard drive, you’ll slash the risk of losing the latest versions of your documents.

Save data onto two or more external hard drives—stash one in a fireproof safe—and your risk of losing an electronic document to theft, fire or computer malfunction drops even lower.

Another safe route is to back up files online, suggests Zbar, who spends about $60 per year on online backup.

Online backups guarantee to save your data frequently, a big plus for backup procrastinators.

“Data is incrementally backed up throughout the day, not just at end of day,” he says.

RISK:
Being Unprepared For Unexpected Events
SOLUTION: Ensure You’re Insured

Hurricanes, floods, fires or break-ins could devastate a home—and a home office.

Review your homeowners insurance to check for rules about mitigation of home office damage or recovery from damage due to natural disasters, theft and house maintenance problems, such as leaks.

“Generally, the home office is covered up to a certain limit on your homeowners insurance, but talk to your insurance provider,” advises Zbar, who lives in southern Florida, a hurricane zone.

Many homeowners policies also cover instances such as theft of a laptop computer from your car.

RISK: Setting Yourself Up For Physical Strain
SOLUTION: Get Comfortable

In a home office, it’s important to be comfortable, but not sloppy. Keep yourself in line by paying attention to ergonomics and reducing strain on joints, eyes and hands.

Invest in a desk chair with adjustable arms, height and seat pan tilt, and adjust it so your elbows and knees create 90-degree angles.

Reduce eyestrain by tailoring lighting to various office tasks and time of the day.

RISK: Making Clumsy Mistakes
SOLUTION: Clear Off Your Desk

Desk clutter—scattered papers, pens, coffee mugs and office equipment—raises the likelihood of accidents.

My desk used to be a magnet for clutter. One day, reaching for the phone, my arm brushed a glass of water, spilling it onto my keyboard. Even after frantic blotting with paper towels and blasting with a hair dryer, the keyboard refused to type.

Lesson learned. Keep your desk clear by using desktop organizers to corral pens, notebooks and mail. Use a coaster to mark a designated spot for your drinks—a spot far from your phone and even farther from your keyboard.


Carrie Madren is a freelance journalist who writes from an organized, properly backed-up, insured and well-lit home office in Olney, Md.

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