“Everybody has plans until they get hit for the first time” – Mike Tyson.
How you performed in the past is your best indicator for future disruptions. If you struggled, did you learn anything from that? More importantly, did you make operational changes to do better next time? If not…WARNING!
This is a yes or no kind of thing. Backing up your data is like having an entire empty storefront right next door to your existing one that you can just move right into in case your first store collapses. Most of your customers may not even know you had an issue! If you don’t back up your data on a regular basis whether to a backup hard drive or inexpensive cloud applications like Carbonite or AWS, you can bet your competitors are.
Reliance on individuals is our greatest single point of failure. Make sure every function is documented in policies and procedures and train at least 2 people on every critical function. Even if your company only has 2 people….cross train. Just like you should back up your data, back up your most important people.
Clients, regulators insurance companies are increasingly asking for them from small businesses as evidence of resilience and sustainability. They are trying to protect THEIR investment in you. As a certified business continuity professional, I advise every client to secure their indirect supply chain exposure by asking every critical supplier for their business continuity plan. If a supplier doesn’t have one….I suggest they start looking for a new supplier. If you don’t have the time and expertise to build a business continuity plan and can’t afford to hire a consultant like Tempest (starting at around $500), you can still start by just writing down what your employees should do in an emergency. Then what you could and should do to communicate to them and your customers. Finally, write down what you can do to keep even partial operations up and running. That’s a great start and you can build from there.
Insurance can give you money to replace your things. But there’s nothing they can do to replace lost customers and goodwill because you had to shut down operations for a month.
This is an easy one. Ask your key suppliers for a copy of their business continuity plan. If they don’t have one, start looking for another supplier. And always have a backup identified that you can call immediately when a supplier faces a disruption. You can bet your competitors who rely on that same supplier will start calling their backup and you want to be first in line.
Diversify your customers. And your products and services. If they fail or cancel your services, where will you be?
This is a break glass in case of emergency kind of thing. A fire alarm will immediately notify an entire building that there is an emergency and everyone needs to get out. You need an “alarm” for your business for ANY type of disruption so you can alert everyone that there is a problem, that you are responding to it, and what they should do while you work to resolve it. This is critical to protecting your reputation. Customers can forgive a disruption, they won't forgive not being told about it. They will think that you are hiding something or unprepared. They might be right.
Branding is the process of setting your business apart from the competition. It's how you control how people view your business and connect with it. Branding is used by major companies, from Coca-Cola to McDonald's. However, small businesses can also use it to influence public perception.