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How to Prepare for Business Continuity after an Incident

Broken windows, stolen equipment, loss to fire—whatever the situation, dealing with incidents certainly does not fall under the fun things to do category of business ownership. Add a potential global pandemic (been there, done that), natural disaster, or stock market crash, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, incidents are sometimes that real-life part of running a business. Even more unfortunate, those incidents can range in severity and the big ones may be tough to weather. Try these strategies to ensure business continuity is the last thing you need to think about when trouble strikes.

Perform a Risk Assessment

Ok, so your business may operate under one roof or out of a garage. It may seem silly when you’re small to think about a risk assessment. But, even single-person businesses benefit from a risk assessment, even if it’s largely informal. Essentially, it’s advised that you consider your risks, document them, and identify strategies for management if they arise. One LinkedIn article advises these five tools for assessing risk in a small business.

Have an Emergency Fund

Small business owners are pretty well accustomed to surviving in lean times. But those survival instincts don’t always extend to the bank account. One of the often-overlooked areas of incident management is an emergency fund. Bank of America recommends that business owners have at least 10% of their annual revenue in an emergency fund. But if that’s not possible, anything you can put back is beneficial.

Appoint a Decision Maker

In the event of a disaster situation, it can be difficult to know who is in charge of making decisions. Who will cover the finances if you’re out of commission? Although, this isn’t something we ever want to think about, it’s essential for surviving an incident, catastrophic or otherwise. Make sure you outline who will be responsible for financial and business decisions if you aren’t able to make them.

If you want to get a few steps ahead, you can also put the following in place.

  • Business continuity plan: Business continuity plans document strategies and procedures for resuming business functions when incidents occur. Your plan should also include steps for coordination among employees and other stakeholders and outline any items a decision maker might need, such as access to certain software or alarm codes.
  • Communication plan: Outline who should reach out to employees in the event of an incident. Your staff will have questions in the wake of an incident and it’s essential that they get answers to their questions to keep things up and running.

Outline Your Critical Functions

Okay, so it needs to be said…what is really needed to keep you up and running—what truly keeps the lights on? It’s important to note that this may not be immediately relevant to the person you appoint as your decision maker. Often times, small business owners will assign this responsibility to a spouse, but does your spouse really know what is being done in your day-today operations? Make no assumptions about whoever will run things in your stead and document your critical functions.

Back up Technology Where It Counts

As a small enterprise, you may not have loads of technology powering your daily operations. Even so, you likely have minor technology that protects some critical aspect of your business, such as financial software or even employee information. Make sure you are backing up anything critical where it can be recovered. No more local saves of a Word doc. Everything needs to be secure, but accessible.

Train Your Employees

What’s that old adage? Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. As frustrating as it may be to hear, it has the ring of truth to it. Your employees need to have adequate training for what to do in different situations, such as natural disasters, robbery and theft, or even fire or other damage. Make your business ready by getting your people ready first.

Get the Right Insurance Coverage

At the very minimum, a Business Owner’s Policy will provide basic coverage for your business. But, depending on the structure of your business, the risk involved, or the investment in equipment or inventory, you may want to level up your coverage. Insurance can be a necessary safety net when the unexpected happens and having the right policies might be the difference between closing up shop and getting through a tough time.

When All Else Fails…

You may find yourself in the unfortunate position of having not prepared for an incident and wondering what you can do now. If you find yourself facing a regrettable situation, do your best to keep your focus where it matters.

Manage the Emergency

Mitigate the situation as much as possible by immediately addressing damage or issues that are preventing you from operating. Reach out for financial assistance and make sure any employees are aware of the situation and the forward-facing plan.

Protect Your Supplies

Develop a plan for moving on from the incident—most notably, make sure you have a secure supply chain. Supply chain disruption has certainly caused headaches for many business owners and that’s the last problem you want to be facing when you’re trying to recover.

Have an Exit Strategy

While not the most ideal of situations, you may want to consider an exit strategy. What will you do if you find you can’t recover from an incident? Plan for liquidating any assets and financial stability until you can officially shut your doors. But let’s help make sure that doesn’t happen to you