Small business owners can control what they sell, whom they hire, and how they do business. Having the power to make decisions is one of the reasons many business owners like running the show, rather than working for someone else. All that still doesn’t give owners power over outside events. Natural disasters, pandemics, financial crises, and unforeseen circumstances—from the death of a partner to the collapse of a major client—do happen.
Preparing for the unforeseeable may be harder than setting aside cash for more predictable setbacks, but small business owners should still make a point of creating a plan of action for when disaster strikes. Keep reading to learn more about how to create a small business disaster recovery plan, and how to put it into practice after disaster strikes.
Why do I need a small business disaster recovery plan?
Hope is a deterrent for planning for the worst. Small business owners are often optimistic; by definition, that means they may not entertain the possibility of bad outcomes. These sunny expectations can help with building a business, overcoming daily problems, and fostering a can-do attitude. But the same feeling can be disastrous if it means that forecasts are not accounting for potential breakdowns along the way. This is where a small business disaster recovery plan can be helpful. While putting one together can take some effort, it will save you a lot of time down the road if disaster strikes. Your plan will outline the steps your business needs to take in the event of an unforeseen circumstance to keep things running as smoothly as possible.
How do I make a small business disaster recovery plan?
You can make a plan even without knowing the exact nature of the disaster that may befall you. Consider the basic line-up—natural disasters, the death or serious illness of a partner, or a financial crisis—and set aside some time to mitigate the main negative effects of each.
First, look into getting the right insurance package. If you’re in a low-lying area, you’ll want to sign up for flood insurance; if your region suffers extreme drought or is in a bushfire risk zone, you’ll want to ensure your insurance covers such disasters. Business interruption insurance is an add-on that can compensate you for lost income if physical damage prevents you from continuing business as normal.
Then, set up a plan for communicating with employees and customers in the case of a disaster. You might even draft a sample fill-in-the-blank email that will help you disseminate important information so you don’t have to compose notes in a panic. As a best practice, you should have a customer and employee email contact list ready to go so you can communicate with both groups as needed.
Next, make sure you are regularly backing up all important data and keep copies of files outside your physical office. Update your backups quarterly, if not more. Depending on what type of business you run, you may want to have a remote work plan in place for employees to ensure that work can switch to remote if needed.
Finally, if you have a business partner, find a time to sit down a discuss a succession plan, in the case of an emergency. Make sure you both know how to access key business services and accounts.
Once you’ve put your plan in writing, drafted some emails, and signed up for insurance, you can file your preparations away, so that sad possibilities don’t derail your daily work or sunny demeanour.
How to put a disaster recovery plan into practice
When an unexpected episode then occurs and is big enough to take a toll on the markets or our industry, we are almost always unprepared. By taking the steps above, you’ll have a better chance at resiliency. After a disaster happens, follow the plans you set up. Employees will look to a strong leader in this time, so you’ll want to put on a brave face and communicate clearly, even if you’re anxious about the damage.
As you rebuild, financing may help you get back on your feet. Following severe disasters, Federal or State Governments often initiate programs specifically intended to help small businesses affected by disasters. For information on stimulus packages available to SMEs in the current COVID-19 pandemic, read our guide here.
Whenever a situation is out of your control, it’s tempting to sit back—or even hide—and wait for all the trouble to disappear. But as a business owner, your company will have a better shot at surviving and thriving if you accelerate through the curves, like a race car driver.
Unfortunate events will probably transpire during your tenure as an owner, but they only develop into really bad outcomes if you allow them. Instead of wallowing in an unfortunate status quo, gather your wits and see how to make the best of a situation. Consider offering new products or tweaking your service to respond to a changing reality.
You may not know what type of disaster will strike, but still, it pays to be prepared for what you cannot predict by making a plan. Fortunately, once the plan is in place, you can simply go back to being optimistic.
OnDeck is here to support small businesses – check out our COVID-19 Resource Hub for more helpful information for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
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