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  • By Mark Leibovich
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, May 16, 1999; Page H15

    Small businesses that fix their own Y2K problems aren't necessarily off the hook. In today's computer-connected economy, a company is only as millennium-ready as its weakest partner.

    One Y2K-paralyzed supplier, for instance, could cripple an otherwise stellar retail operation for weeks.

    "A lot of small businesses figure that if they're prepared themselves, they must be safe altogether," said Bob Schwabik, a project manager for the state of Virginia's Manufacturing Extension Partnership. He works with small companies on year 2000 computer preparation.

    He recommends that businesses ask suppliers for written assurance that they are Y2K-ready. This would allow the business to make a full assessment of how vulnerable it is to its partners' frailties, and seek alternative suppliers if necessary.

    Schwabik also suggests that to be safe, retailers stockpile a portion of inventory in case a distribution channel breaks down at year's end.

    Faith is an easier option. Indeed, the notion that everything will run smoothly seems the prevailing strategy among small business people interviewed randomly last week.

    "They say it's ready," said Israel Sheinbein, the owner of Scogna Formal Wear on L Street, when he was asked about the system that processes his credit card sales.

    If that fails, Sheinbein has a backup: an outdated manual credit card slide that can be hauled out from a back room. And he'll always accept cash. That's what his 1920 Burroughs cash register was designed for anyway.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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