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An Open Letter To Small and Medium Sized Business

This message is about small- and medium-sized businesses who are being marginalized and ignored. These statements about how Year 2000 will affect you, I should add, are extremely accurate because it's already happening. As the accountant turned Year 2000 advocate (that's a big change but we will all fall into Year 2000) I believe you have the right to know what you will be confronted with. It's always hard to believe such nonsense could be occurring, but then again.... You will be intrigued to say the least.

Many typical information sources, and I include governments, software and hardware suppliers, banks and consulting firms, have been unwilling to reveal to you how debilitating the Year 2000 situation can be. You have been marginalized because many who could be warning you about the extent of the problems are fearful of being called a fear-monger (sticks and stones--big deal), afraid for their own liability, or do not have the resources (remember how extensive recent cutbacks have been) to contact you as they would like. There is no blame-just reality.

However, as a business operator, you will be receiving inquiries about your Year 2000 compliance status from customers and stakeholders, which will become increasingly demanding. Eventually you will be involved in satisfying many demands (from your banker, lawyer, accountant, customers, shareholders etc.) over money, legal niceties, communication policies and your own personal liability. These difficulties and dilemmas will consume much time, energy and money, but your response and readiness will affect your business relationships profoundly. Welcome to the confrontational world of Year 2000. You will feel like a one-eyed mongoose in a snake-pit.

For those of you who are waiting for Year 2000 experience and solutions to evolve, now is the perfect time (regardless, it's too risky and expensive to wait any longer). You will feel this Year 2000 whirlwind just as my Year 2000 Research Group has. We have been collaborating with the very best firms in Canada and the U.S. It doesn't do anyone any good if Year 2000 stories and experiences aren't shared. Solutions for Year 2000, however onerous, are possible. I welcome you to take up the challenge.


More Y2K News Bytes

In my previous letter, I invited you to "stay tuned," because, as I tried to reassure you at the time, "there is much action on Year 2000 behind the scenes." Well, part of this action is the 1997 Auditor General's Report. The just released Report (quite literally "hot off the presses") expresses fears that the government's current slow rate of progress in dealing with Y2K could result in critical systems not being ready in time, which, the Report ominously continues, could cripple the feds' ability to deliver the "major programs and essential services" we all rely on. The Report even went so far as to state that all this "could affect [the] public health and safety" of Canadians. In any case, the Year 2000 Crisis (yes, they're finally calling it a crisis) is "a serious threat that requires urgent and aggressive action" on the part of the government,it says. (See Chapter 12, Report of the Auditor General, at www.oag-bvg.gc.ca)

Well, if the AG says things are this serious, you can bet they're at least that serious.... Unfortunately, there's no equivalent of the Auditor General for small- and medium-sized businesses. Personally, I feel small- and medium-sized business managers can deal with this crisis if we are forewarned. Many forget that we deal with crisis every day. Some would say we even create it. 'Till next time....

Ken Lagasse, C.A.