What can you do today to help with an emergency in the future?
As recent events have shown, it’s important that a small business has a continuity plan. It’s not always something that small business owners think about or plan for, but if something were to happen to you, your physical business location, or members of your workforce, would your company be able to withstand that interruption?
A business continuity plan outlines how your business will be able to continue operating in the case of an unexpected disruption. Whether it’s a natural disaster, a personal health matter, a cybersecurity attack, a power outage, or a global pandemic, putting together a “just in case” plan now can help you survive future emergencies.
As a small business, your business continuity plan doesn’t need to be as complex as that of a corporation, but it’s still worth taking the time to think it through carefully.
Here are some steps you can take right now to create or adapt a business continuity plan.
Figure out who is responsible for what. Depending on the nature of your business, you might be the sole owner, it could be a famly owned and operated business, or you might have partners. Figure out which aspects of the business will need coverage, and who can help in the event of natural disasters, pandemics, or property damage. Who will act as your back up support if the people running the day to day operations are unable to get to work? Do you have inventory that will need to be moved out, and if so, where will it go? Train key staff members and assign out certain responsibilities in case of an emergency. It can be something as simple as who will open and close your store, who can work with your suppliers, or who can contact or work with clients on your behalf.
Protect your assets. In the case of needing to put in an insurance claim, you’ll want to take precautions to ensure photos and records are available including equipment costs, serial numbers and invoice dates. Having a current and up-to-date inventory list is important, too. Finally, make sure you keep copies of your important business documents (leases, contracts, insurance programs, payroll and accounting) off-site.
Put technology and communication tools in place. Having all of your customer records in a file cabinet can mean your access is cut off should something happen that prevents you from getting to your business location. Start digitizing your records into a cloud-based solution. Find alternative banking and payroll solutions that don’t involve cash and checks. Make sure you have up-to-date contact information for all of your employees, and a simple way to contact them all in an emergency – it could be a texting chain, an email blast, or a group messaging app. Have a list of important logins and passwords or use a password manager program for your business social media accounts and website.
Put some preventative strategies in place. A data-related disruption to a third-party vendor can result in significant financial impact to your business. Taking out a cyber insurance program is a critical tool that can mitigate revenue loss via risk transfer. Other considerations: Do you have a backup generator if a natural disaster cuts power for a period of time? Can you reroute your business phone to your home? Prepare a contact database (accessible from anywhere) for messaging your customers. Develop a master list of vendors and suppliers with their contact information so that you can share updates.
Formalize a remote work contingency plan. Can your business operate remotely? Do you have a backup facility or can you work out of your home? Does everyone on your team have the necessary technology to remain productive and maintain business continuity? You don’t want to be rushing to put all of this together when a crisis hits. Having a plan written out and accessible to everyone means that business operations can continue without missing a beat.
Conduct training and testing. Putting your plan on paper is just the start. You want to also make sure that your team is made aware of the plan. Take some time to go over instructions and procedures, and talk through various scenarios. Pick a day once or twice a year to do a drill to test out remote communication tools and an emergency alert system.
Creating a business continuity plan might seem like a lot of work when you’re busy running your microbusiness, but should something happen, you’ll be glad you did it.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the sale of any financial product or service. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.