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  • Writer's pictureP.M.

Making your own LUCK in business

Something I've noticed in many areas of life is that some people seem to be lucky and other folks just seem to attract bad luck. Have you ever met someone who seems to live in a "bubble"? Or, on the other hand, someone who is always lamenting about the latest disaster to strike them? I certainly have and I'm sure you have too.

One thing I've noticed in these cases is a seemingly unrelated correlation. PREPAREDNESSS. People who are prepared seem to be "lucky" when in fact they are just well prepared to deal with the foreseeable future. Often that then translates into being able to seize an unforeseeable business opportunity and either turn it to their advantage or at least mitigate the damage otherwise occurring.

For a professional, that can mean not practicing on the ragged edge of profitability. It is difficult to pay for all the equipment, software and personnel that a surveyor needs to operate successfully. But, the LUCKY surveyor finds a way to be prepared and to seize the unexpected circumstances when they arise.

One way to create your own luck is, like the boyscout, BE PREPARED. Have contingency plans, have backup equipment in your crew vehicles, have catastrophic insurance, have regular training outside of your general expertise, have a network of friends and colleagues you rely on and who know they can rely on you. All of these things become part of a regular practice and habit that pays off with unexpected dividends.

With all the wildfires raging here in northern California, I am reminded of several past wildfire experiences where I or my crews were able to extinguish small fires that were just getting started. In all these cases a passing motorist threw a lit cigarette or match out of a car window and started a grass fire that began to quickly spread. Because we had shovels and protective clothing at the ready we were able to jump on some of these fires and quickly extinguish them. Of course, we were not always so lucky. One fire I remember in particular got out of hand and burned several hundred acres and threatened a chemical plant. However, even there, our crew was able to contact the plant by radio and warn them early enough that the fire response was timely and effective. What would have happened if we didn't have our radio that day or the batteries had died?! Another time, as a young chainman, I remember driving an old Chevy Suburban that caught on fire in deep sugar sand many miles from anywhere. In that case, the fire extinguisher was securely strapped down in the back of the rig and not readily available. I was able to get out of the vehicle, but not able to get to the extinguisher and the rig burned to the ground in a matter of minutes. Perhaps with a little better preparation I could have put out the fire and saved the rig...

Another time a I remember getting a call from a friend up in Alaska miles out to sea in Upper Cook Inlet. He was completely fogged in with no visibility and had been for nearly 24 hours. His boat was a little "jitney" and had no radar or electronics other than a radio. He had been stuck over night when the batteries in the hand-held Garmin GPS I lent him had died. He was calling through the marine operator to ask me what size batteries the GPS unit took. I couldn't believe it! Fortunately, there was no harm other than the inconvenience of being stuck. However, it is still an uneasy thing to be at sea and know that one of the prime instruments you rely on for navigation has gone belly-up. A little extra preparation would have made that a non-event. And a little bad luck could have changed that situation into an unnecessary disaster.

Finally, one last example. I remember many years ago getting a call in the middle of the night from a pilot in some distress who was attempting to land a small Cessna 150 I had sold him the day before. He was using a cell phone to call me. It was the dead of night, no moon, unfamiliar surroundings, all lights in the plane had gone out and the cabin of the plane was filled with smoke. What a disaster!!! It turned out that he was able to land safely at an airport in Alabama and that a wiring fault in the cabin dome light has caused the light to burn out and make the smoke. The FAA later issued an Airworthiness Directive for that problem and recommended that the light and wiring on those era Cessna's be inspected. However, even without the benefit of hindsight, it was not a smart idea to begin a cross country trip in an old airplane without checking it out thoroughly and certainly not at night on a route the pilot had never before flown. However, that is the way some folks roll (and occasionally crash).

So, in business and in life, be prepared. Plan ahead and inculcate good habits. Don't rely on a chance; MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK!

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