When I was building a block of apartments in Edgeworthstown, Longford in 2006 I made it my business to learn how to drive a teleporter.
A teleporter, as you probably know, is like a bit like a cross between a digger and a forklift because it is essentially a tractor with an extendable boom and forks.
This lets you lift heavy objects, such as pallets of tiles or concrete blocks, and deliver them with precision to the roofers or block layers. There is a telescopic arm on it with two forks at the end and it is an invaluable machine on any building project.
I learned to drive it, however, because I did not want to be dependent on the guy whose services I had been engaging up to that point. He was inclined to ring in sick on a Monday morning and became increasingly erratic in his attendance at work.
He probably felt he could do what he liked, too, and he had me over a barrel as I had no choice because I couldn’t drive the machine.
But I learned quickly, did my test, got my licence and was independent from then on.
Because of this vulnerability of being dependent on someone in my business I decided that I would, where possible, reduce or eliminate that dependence from then on.
Years later, when I started my solicitor’s practice, I learned how to build my own websites for the same reason: I would never be held over a barrel by the ‘tech guy’.
I believe if you are starting or running your own business it is a smart move to reduce, as much as your can, your total dependence on others. That’s not to say you should not delegate or manager or outsource, but you should try to insulate yourself against total dependent on one individual who can walk, or threaten to walk, at the most inconvenient time.
Yes, you cannot learn how to do heart surgery or carry out your own dental work.
But in your business, I believe you should look around and carry out a ‘vulnerability audit’ to see where you can reduce your dependence on one individual or supplier. Especially if you are a small business or start up who may be more susceptible than a bigger business to the departure of a key employee or supplier.
If you are running a small business, or thinking about starting one up, you might find my website SmallBusinessLawIreland.com as it provides a good deal of free information about the law surrounding small business in Ireland.