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Small Business Disaster Preparedness

Written by  Mike Minzes August 31, 2011

Planning and Preparing Tips For Your Small Business: 3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Protect Your Business

A few years ago, I was attending a meeting at a mid-sized company when I was handed a 400-page document and told that it was the active operational business continuity plan for the business. I opened the binder and by the time I got to the third page, I couldn't read anymore. The plan was so complex and cost-prohibitive that it would have caused more problems that it solved.

After a few months refining the plan, we got it down to 45 pages. It was more manageable and contained only the necessary information to get the business operational within the required time set by the CEO. We cut out information that was not critical and added several elements that were missing from the plan.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the plan before we refined it was that it missed three of the most important components of a good business continuity plan. A realistic assessment of risks, alternatives to sustaining the business after a disaster/during the recovery, and local support resources.

These three critical components are the core of the business sustainment aspect of the plan. They aid in the sustainment of a business during the crucial period right after a disaster has occurred and resumption of operations. If a business can sustain revenue streams during this period, they are more likely to recover completely.

Understanding these 3 critical components and addressing them is not hard to do, nor is it expensive to conduct. And it's certainly doesn't require a 400 page document be created.

Here are 3 tips you can do right now to protect your business.

risk1) Assess the Realistic Risks Your Business Faces

Every business faces risks to some degree. It's important that business owners assess the risks they face and try to mitigate as many as possible. It's also important that those risks be assessed realistically. For example, a business next to a river is more likely to have flooding than a business 50 miles away from the same river. Or a chemical plant faces a larger risk of fire than a farmer's market. It's important to assess and understand the risks your business faces so that when you write your disaster preparedness plan you focus on the realistic risks your business faces. This is the first step in developing your disaster preparedness plan.

main2) Get a Website

According to recent research conducted by WebVisable and Neilson, only 44% of small businesses have a website. That is up only by 10% since the mid-1990's. Part of the reason is that small business owners think it's too expensive or hard to develop one. They are also unsure of how it can be used to market their products to more customers. But, perhaps the most interesting information to come out of the research is that they didn't understand how it can use used protect their businesses. While having a website is primarily a marketing and sales tool, a website can also be part of your business sustainment strategy should a disaster occur. Hosted remotely, web sales in many cases can sustain part or all of your revenue streams if your business is disabled by a disaster by allowing the continuation of sales and product distribution. A perfect example of this is Amazon.com. Amazon.com has their entire sales catalog available on their website, distributed throughout the world. This is not just Amazon.com's sales strategy, but it's also a great sustainment strategy. One of the reasons Amazon.com was able to succeed where many dot-com's failed in the 1990's, was by offering their products and services in multiple locations and then shipping directly from the manufacturer. Amazon.com has come a long way since then, but the concept still remains.

It doesn't take thousands of dollars to develop a functional site either. Your internet service provider most likely offers website development and publishing services at a very reasonable price and many of them have simple tools you can use to build and publish your site over a weekend. Having a website and using it as part of your business sustainment strategy is a simple and cost effective way to protect your distribution lines and sales and possibly generate even more revenue for your business.

SBA33) Connect With Your Local Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA has a wealth of information, training, and support for small businesses. You can find your local office by visiting the SBA website at www.sba.gov. Contact your local SBA office and see what disaster assistance services they can offer your business. Many of their preparedness services and training classes are free or provided at a reduced cost. Knowing what is available to you and when can make the difference between your business receiving assistance after a disaster or your business having to close its doors forever.

It doesn't require a huge investment to begin preparing your business for a disaster. The more you have in place, the easier and less expensive it will be if you contract someone to develop your functional disaster preparedness and recovery plans.

For more information on preparing your business, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Business Readiness website at http://www.ready.gov/business/index.html.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mike Minzes is the CEO of INEVOLVE SB, a Small Business Disaster Preparedness Planning company located just outside of Washington DC. Mr Minzes has over 20 years experience proving disaster preparedness and business continuity planning for both the federal and commercial markets.