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Some Small Businesses Not Worrying About Y2K
By Mark Zdechlik
February 25, 1999
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Computer experts warn: without precautions, the transition to the year 2000 could disrupt computer operations which could have a domino effect on the economy.

Some estimates have big business globally spending as much as $500 billion to prepare for Y2K. Now there are increasing efforts to help ensure small businesses without technology departments and budgets for consultants, are also protected.

Minnesota Year 2000 Project
MN Office of Technology
Year 2000 Information Center
RON KADERA OWNS COUNTRY CYCLES IN THE ST. PAUL SUBURB OF ROSEVILLE. It's a small bicycle shop, just himself and a few workers. And Kadera acknowledges, he's much more concerned about the basics of his small business - customer service, inventory and employees - than he is a bout what might happen to computers in his store and around the world when 1999 becomes the year 2000.
Kadera: I'm not as concerned as I should be and I'm not going to let it bother me a whole lot. If something happens, I guess I don't know what I'm going to do at that time. But I have taken very few precautions.
Kadera suspects the whole Y2K issue is being blown out of proportion. He says he's got about 20 thousand dollars tied up in computers for the bike shop. They're mostly used to track inventory and to maintain customer databases. If it all does fall apart in ten months, Kadera doubts it will ruin his business.
Kadera: It wouldn't be a huge problem because we can operate manually. And pencil and paper is still a very, very basic and simple means of being able to re-create our purchasing records. We still know what we bought. I don't think it would take too much time to get the problem fixed.
Kadera's attitude toward Y2K is likely shared by many small-business owners. That's a big concern to large companies which make their money providing services to smaller businesses.
Bailey: The idea is to minimize the impact of Year 2000. This is an everybody wins if we all get this problem beat in time. And everybody loses if we have problems, even if the small business level.
Dan Baily heads up the Year 2000 Project for Twin Cities-based Deluxe Corporation. Deluxe is a Fortune-1000 company that provides banks and stores with checks, electronic-transaction equipment and other financial services.

Baily says Deluxe has boiled down what it has learned about preparing for Y2K into a so-called "Y2K Survival Guide".

It's an easy to follow list of what businesses, even small companies, can do to guard against possible Y2K problems.
Baily: The thing to think about isn't so much what you use computers for. Think about your business processes. How do you collect inventory? How do you make sure you have enough inventory? How do you receive payments from your customers? How do you pay your suppliers? If any of those areas use computers or use other third parties, those are the places to focus on.
Take the bike shop for example.

Owner Ron Kadera has just a few computers and not a great deal of software. Still, Baily says he should check with the companies from which he bought his hard and software to determine whether his systems are Y2K-proof, and if they are not, if they can be updated to accommodate the switch.

He should also check with his suppliers to make sure they'll be able to fill his orders in the year 2000. And, according to Baily, Kadera, should try running his business with pencil and paper to find out whether that's as realistic an option and he thinks it is.

Baily says for most small businesses protecting against Y2K is not as difficult as many small business owners might imagine.
Baily: One might become surprised by a few of the things that they didn't think about earlier that might become problems but what we found is the trick is to begin the process of thinking through "how do I make my business work? When do I count on computers? And can I makes sure those computers are going to be compliant?". The solution is usually fairly quick.
In offering Y2K-survial kits, Deluxe Corporation is doing what many large companies are doing to help ensure small business - often their customers - weather the transition to 2000.

Chancy Lyford is with the Small Business Administration.
Lyford: The smallest businesses don't have the resources that the big corporations do in order to go and hire a consultant and take care of this problem on their own, they may be a one- or two-employee shop. It's not just a technological problem, it's a management problem.
This spring the SBA plans to dispatch Y2K SWAT teams.

The teams will canvass small business to make sure they're aware of potential Y2K problems and that they get the help they may need to prepare for it.

Mark Zdechlik covers business issues for Minnesota Public Radio. You can reach him at