Hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, even Tsunamis are far too common occurrences these days. Scientists say they are on the rise, and we will see more of them, more frequently. In light of the damage and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Irene in 2011 and now Sandra in 2012, it just seems like an appropriate time to remind people about the importance of disaster preparedness, and if they were fortunate enough to make it through Sandra, the time to provide some great preparedness tips.
Have you even given thought to who would help you with your business if a disaster should strike? Have you given thought to how you would keep clients happy and your business humming if suddenly you were taken out of the picture for a period of time or if your home office was decimated and all of your computer equipment lost? Do you have a “Plan B” in place for those times when “life (or Mother Nature) happens?”
With the New Year approaching, this might the opportunity for you to sit down and create a plan, a safety net, or an “In Case of Emergency – Do THIS” process. Here are some important things to cover when creating your business emergency plan.
Create Process Documents. It is important to create processes for all of your major tasks, daily operations and procedures. We create documents like this here at BizEase Support Solutions to refer to when we have staff changes or if members of the Team go on vacation. A written outline of duties, tasks, tips, passwords, and actions related to client care keeps things seamless for us and the client if changes should occur. These can be things like how a website or a teleseminar was created for a client, or simple things like the “ins-and-outs” of handling their helpdesk. The idea is to create a written (and changeable document) that will provide all of the information needed to walk someone through each step of the process. If you are doing this for your own business, begin by writing down the actions you take to complete each task or project in a step-by-step fashion. Do this for upcoming projects as well, even if you are not planning on delegating these tasks to anyone else. Store the documents in a system “on the cloud,” such as a project management system like Basecamp or an online storage system like Dropbox, so if something happens to your computer, all of your information remains safe and sound.
Keep all Important Information in a Safe Place. Keep a Google Doc or some other type of list for important passwords and website login information. Again, a project management system like Basecamp is a great place. Create a special “writeboard” with links and passwords that can be quickly accessed by anyone with access to the system. You might also use an online system like PassPack where you can share login information with specific people – based on a need to know. A simple process like this saves everyone time and prevents scrambling around to see “who changed the password and what it is now.” It’s also a great idea to keep an updated database of clients, colleagues and vendors in a cloud-based system. Having this information available offsite will help keep your business running smoothly if you are unavailable or your office is destroyed.
Have a Trusted Back-up Person. Pick one key person to whom you are willing to trust your business; someone who has access to all of your important information, and knows your business well enough that they can carry on if you are out of commission. Have the conversation NOW, before you really need to. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Delegate Now. Delegation works to ensure your business can still run in your absence, and ensure that it’s streamlined while you’re still here. Take the time to review all the tasks and procedures necessary to keep your business running on a daily basis, and determine what can only be done by you. Take the remainder of those tasks or projects and delegate them to a support person or a trusted VA Team.
Back it up! Last but not least, have a solid computer backup system in place. What would happen if your computer crashed or was destroyed? Would your business survive? Don’t take any chances. Back up your hard drive at least once a week with an external hard drive and keep it either offsite or in a safe that will survive a disaster. Plus, use an online system like Carbonite or Mozy that will continuously back up your files as you work. Combine an external hard drive with Carbonite/Mozy and a cloud based storage system like Dropbox, and you can rest assured your files and valuable information are safe and secure.
Chances are disaster will never strike your business, but in case it does, you can rest easier knowing you have laid the groundwork for others to step in and keep your ship afloat. If you’ve had to deal with an emergency in the past and have some insight (or know of something I missed!) please share! We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and comments.