Will your business survive in the event of a disaster – including a personal one? Here’s how to make sure an outside disaster doesn’t become one for your business.
Like insurance, business disaster planning isn’t something you want to consider using. But understanding the inherent risks to your business and how to prepare for them is an incredibly important step that business owners can’t skip.
Most of the time when people hear about business continuity and disaster preparedness planning their mind immediately jumps to earthquakes, hurricanes, dogs & cats living together, mass hysteria!
And while it’s important to plan for large disaster events like that, ask yourself this question: If you got hit by a bus and were unable to work for a month, would your business survive?
I was at a conference years ago and the attendees were asked how many were business owners. Nearly the entire room raised their hands. The presenter then asked, “How many of you could take a month off of work, willing or unwilling, and still have a business to go back to?”
Three people – out of several hundred – raised their hands.
He continued, “I’m sorry to tell those who didn’t raise their hands that you aren’t business owners. You are the employees of a business that you just also happen to own”.
Many business owners put themselves into the position of being indispensable. They are the master link in the chain.
But that’s not actually a strong position, because it means if that link breaks, the chain is ruined.
Instead, what they need are scalable processes that allow the business to continue without them guiding everything. You only have a truly strong organization if its foundations are built on more than the presence of one person.
That’s the essence of a business continuity plan. You hope you’ll never have to miss a month of work, but this is how to stay in business should disaster strike.
#1. Do A SWOT Analysis
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. In this case, you want to focus on weaknesses and threats.
Analyze what will transpire if you incur a long-term absence from your business. Your goal is to plan ahead so that absence doesn’t turn into a business-ending disaster.
#2. Identify and Rank Potential Threats
Could your business survive a Zombie Apocolypse? Sounds silly, but that question is a good place to start your disaster planning.
Get your staff together and answer this question. As you do, you’ll list potential threats. Rank them according to impact (for instance, a flood will have more impact than a power outage).
Plan for how you’d deal with each threat. Can you go on with key resources or people out for long periods?
Identify the worst that can happen, and plan for it. It’s the only way to be prepared when it does.
#3. Identify Key Players
The key here is to plan roles and distribute responsibilities so that your business isn’t utterly reliant on just one person. If it isn’t possible for others to step-in in the event of a long-term absence, it turns into a major problem.
This isn’t always easy, particularly when you have people who do specialized work. But each of those people represents a potential break in the chain unless you have a backup plan.
A lot of businesses identify key players after they’re out. At that point, there’s little left to do but panic. Don’t leave yourself with this vulnerability.
If someone’s role is essential, it means it’s worth having a plan in place to back them up.
#4. Prepare Your Technology
Be sure to have data backup and access plans so you can access vital data remotely. Have all customer records in a CRM so everyone can access them if your main facility is out of commission.
With today’s cloud technology, it’s easier to maintain backups and remote access. Test your systems and make sure they’re reliable.
#5. Test Your Plan
Don’t wait for the Zombies to descend. Test your continuity plan before you need it.
Allow staff to practice their backup roles. Do a mock run-through of various threats. Make sure you can access vital data and communicate remotely.
Hopefully you’ll never need to implement your disaster plan. But you need it in place because it’s a critical form of insurance. Don’t let an unavoidable disaster – or just plain bad luck – destroy the successful business you’ve worked so hard to create.