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Small Businesses Need Continuity Plans, Too

“In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” – Warren Buffett

Given the goings-on since our last post, we need to discuss the importance of disaster preparedness for small businesses. According to FEMA.gov, almost 40 percent of small businesses never reopen following a disaster because just a few inches of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. I find that unacceptable, especially because it can be prevented in many cases. When I advise a company – and particularly when it’s being created – the owners and I create business continuity plans in the event of a natural disaster, like a flood or earthquake. As Brinen & Associates seeks a permanent location, I’ve got disaster preparedness on my mind.

Establishing and Enacting the Plan

A business continuity plan outlines what steps you will take to ensure your company can continue to operate after a major disruption. Natural disasters, active shooters and cyber breaches are examples of events that would cause business interruption and prohibit the normal flow of activity.

Legally speaking, business continuity plans do not need to be formal – though it couldn’t hurt to have them in writing. They belong in the employee handbook and should not be left as verbal contracts.  Make it something someone can look at and execute with minimum creative thinking in the moment.   No matter what type of small business you operate, be sure each employee knows what their responsibility will be in the event of a major business interruption. For example, a pizza shop might shutter its doors and windows in the face of a flood and all employees would be expected to stay home until it passes. A small marketing firm owner facing the same flood, however, might expect employees to work remotely to finish a big project or check in before signing off entirely. There’s a gray area, too, like an accounting firm; some employees can work remotely but others, like administrators, might only be capable of performing their duties on-site.

A group text is a simple way for a small business owner to communicate with employees about whether a physical office or base of operations is closed and if that also means the company is closed.

Insurance

The most direct way to prepare is to seek out business continuity insurance. This is extremely important for any owner. This covers the loss of income that a business suffers after a disaster. The income loss covered may be due to the disaster-related closing of the business facility or due to the rebuilding process after a disaster.

It’s important to note that cyber security insurance may warrant a separate policy from a policy covering physical damage. This depends on the carrier and how much coverage you will need.

Data Migration

The next consideration needs to be your critical files. Offsite backup is critical. Will you hire a third party to handle your data migration or will you have your own IT department or person handle it? You can go cloud-based or you can clone, among other methods. I had one bad experience with the cloud back when it was in its infancy, which is why I prefer cloning – I have a copy of my critical files on my laptop that gets backed up as well on to other computers and servers. This enables me to easily work remotely during emergencies. Plenty of my clients have cloud-based storage and they operate just fine, too.

Ultimately, your business continuity plan should be flexible and amendable because new threats to businesses arise all the time and you will have to react. The business continuity plans my firm has drafted have helped clients get back on their feet after major natural disasters and data breaches. Contact Brinen & Associates to discuss your company’s needs.

Click here for an insightful infographic from the National Institute for Business and Home Safety: 5 Ways to Keep Flood Waters Out of Your Business

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