This article was updated on July 6, 2018.
Small business owners and staff typically play multiple roles in service to the notion that the success of the business is worth the effort. All that effort may be undone, however, by the threat of disaster. Information from the Institute for Business and Home Safety reported by the U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that 25 percent of small businesses hit by a major disaster never reopen. The bottom line? Disaster preparation isn't just for the big guys. Here's a rundown on what small business owners need to stay afloat.
It's tempting to think of disasters as happening to any business but your own. A combination of good fortune and your work ethic will keep problems from your doorstep, right? Unfortunately, 34 percent of small companies in the United States have seen extreme weather impact their day-to-day business, notes the Small Business Majority reported in CPA Practice Advisor. Yet the American Sustainable Business Council data also reported by CPA Practice Advisor shows that 57 percent of small businesses don't have a disaster preparation plan, leaving them vulnerable in the event of a hurricane, severe winter storm or flood. The first step for small business disaster preparation, then, is to recognize that all businesses are vulnerable at any time.
Before laying out the details of a disaster plan, take time to consider your risk. What are some likely disaster scenarios and their outcomes? What are some less-likely scenarios, and how would they impact your bottom line? What's a near impossibility that could cripple your business? It seems extreme, but as Entrepreneur points out, it doesn't take a major disaster to cripple your business network; anything from a simple power outage to civil unrest comes with potential consequences. Get creative when you're planning to lessen the surprise if a scenario becomes reality.
Check Your Policies
What kind of insurance policies does your company have in place? Most small businesses carry property insurance, which activates in the event of damaged buildings or equipment, but there are several other iterations to consider. For example, business interruption insurance covers income lost during a temporary shutdown, and cyber insurance protects your company from technology-based disasters like data stolen or damaged by hackers.
Detail Your Plan
The final step is to create a detailed plan for when — not if — your business is threatened by disaster. Make backup copies of all critical files either in the cloud or in physical storage devices and develop an emergency protocol that puts specific people in charge of specific tasks during a disaster. At no point should anyone in your company ask, "Whom should I call?" or "What comes next?" and not have an immediate answer. Design a plan that covers who, what, when, where and how so that when disaster strikes, you're not caught flat-footed.
Your small business is worth too much to let it sink under the weight of extreme events. Instead of hoping for the best, design a disaster preparation plan that'll lessen the impact of the worst.
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