Today’s Volusion blog post discusses ways to build a disaster recovery plan for your business. Once created, this document will provide a way for your business to recuperate more quickly in the event of a major catastrophe.
This past weekend brought a whirlwind of tornadoes across the southeastern portion of the United States, wreaking havoc across miles of geography and affecting the lives of thousands of people living in the area. After watching news reports illustrating the devastation, I began to wonder what I would do in the event of a natural disaster. I quickly realized that I’m in no way prepared, and it’s probably a safe assumption that many business owners aren’t ready for the worst, either.
So why should your business have an emergency plan in place? Quite simply, you can’t afford not to. You can’t predict the weather, nor do you have control over man-made catastrophes. The only thing you can do is be as prepared as possible to begin recovery. The U.S. Small Business Association indicates that organizations with disaster recovery plans resume operations twice as fast for half the cost after an incident takes place.
The first step in building your plan is to determine which threats are most likely to directly affect you. If you’re in Kansas, it’s pretty improbable that you’ll be hit by a hurricane or a flood, but a tornado is a huge possibility. This thought process will allow you to figure out what type of insurance could be helpful and which would be an unnecessary expense.
Based on your findings from step one, the next task is to outline what your business needs to do internally. Take a look at some of the following questions to consider:
- What pieces of equipment are absolutely essential for barebones operations? Make a list of items that you have to have in order to keep things moving. For an online business, your computer is a top priority so you can manage communications and monitor progress. Whatever the case, make sure you can quickly find a backup or account for this vital hardware immediately.
- Which documents are critical to my business? Let’s face it, some documents aren’t going to make or break your business legitimacy. Others, however, are extremely important, such as contracts, personnel files and proprietary secrets. Once you identify these documents, try to make digital copies and save them on multiple external hard drives. If you need physical copies, make them and place them in a spot that is a safe distance from your primary location.
- What are you going to do with your employees? The people that make up your business are going to turn to you for guidance. They’ll need to know whether or not to report to work, if they can work from home, and what tasks are essential to keeping the business afloat while the recovery process takes place. Also consider how compensation will work and how you’re going to communicate with them.
- How will your insurance help? When you’re reviewing or signing up for an insurance policy, ask your agent the best approach to filing claims and creating documentation in the event of a catastrophe. After a major disaster, insurance companies will be flooded with requests, so help yours move faster by following all of the right steps the first time around.
Next up, put together an action plan for external parties, also known as your crisis communication plan. This can be broken up into three primary elements:
- Customer communication: This is going to be on a case by case basis, depending on the situation at hand. If you’re out of business for a week, you need to find a way to inform your customers. If you have limited operations or there is a change in the way that shoppers place orders, clearly outline these instructions. For your online business, it’s a good idea to place this information on your homepage so expectations are set and customers aren’t confused or disappointed.
- Supplier communication: What information are you going to relay to your suppliers and how are you going to do so? The first step is to place their contact details into an easily accessible document. Also, take a look to see if there are any provisions in your agreements for disaster situations. Whatever the case, be open with your suppliers as to save money and maintain friendly relations.
- “Back in business” communication: Once the dust settles and things are more or less back to normal, think about the best ways to inform your customers and suppliers of the reopening. Perhaps making a big email announcement and using social channels is appropriate. Offering a promotion could be helpful in bringing traffic back to your store.
There are some great resources out there to help you before and after a disaster, particularly in receiving financial assistance and advice. Check these out:
No matter where you live or what industry you’re in, it’s important to have an action plan in place for unforeseen circumstances. It’s equally important to share this plan with key stakeholders. This way, when the unexpected strikes, you can focus on steadily rebuilding normalcy instead of haphazardly picking up the pieces.
Happy (and prepared) selling!
-Matt Winn, Marketing Associate
This past weekend brought a strong whirlwind of tornadoes across the southeastern portion of the United States, wreaking havoc across miles of geography and affecting the lives of thousands of people living in the area. After watching news reports illustrating the devastation, I began to wonder what I would do in the event of a natural disaster. I quickly realized that I’m in no way prepared, and it’s probably a safe assumption that many business owners aren’t ready for the worst, either.