While no one wants to think about a worst-case scenario, an emergency won’t take your feelings into consideration. Effective planning for your business to navigate potential catastrophic challenges is actually a way to give you, your clients, your employees, and your loved ones peace of mind. Whether a natural disaster interrupts your daily operations or your business is left with no one at the helm due to your death or incapacitation, you should ensure that you have made preparations for how to continue to care for your clients and your family. Planning should consist of three major steps: understanding the risks your business faces, preparing a communication plan, and developing a business continuity plan.
The first part of this process is analysis. Understanding your risks will be different for every business. If you work in a location prone to extreme weather, this should be something to take into consideration for operational interruptions throughout the year. Loss of power or computer system failure are also common issues that could impact a business at any time. Your own health and age should be taken into consideration as well when figuring out where the risks to your business lie.
Next, preparing how you can communicate when these challenges arise. As soon as an emergency hits, the first thing people need is information to help them make decisions about their responsibilities and safety, about the ongoing impact of the emergency and how to adapt. Your communication plan is best served in tiers, where you will have immediate contacts and then a tree of filtered information that will carry through all of your staff and to your clients. It’s important to not only make sure this system is reviewed and updated frequently, for example, making sure all contact information is up-to-date, but should also be tested for efficacy before it’s actually needed in practice.
Lastly, you will need your business continuity plan. This plan will be specific to your business, to best suit your own circumstances and systems. The plan will also have several branches concerning different emergencies. For example, there will be the planned resources for your staff in case of a natural emergency, how to maintain data integrity and continue work functions if no one can get into the office. The other aspect to keep in mind is a plan for your book of business if you are no longer able to serve your clients due to death or illness. Having your succession plan already officially in place before it’s needed is vital to make sure your business endures and that your spouse is cared for financially and doesn’t have to deal with the added stress of trying to sort out what to do after your death.
Getting these plans in place now will save you, your staff, and your loved ones undue pressure and stress in the future. There are many resources available to guide you as you build your plans for the future. Of course, hopefully none of your emergency plans will need to be put into place. However, since the unpredictable is just that, do yourself and your business a favor and do the work now, then relax knowing you have a plan of action just in case the unthinkable occurs.