Emergencies and unexpected events can be devastating to small business owners or entrepreneurs, more so than large established companies with enough resources and locations to bounce back after an economic or business upset. The Small Business Administration has found that 90% of companies that experience an emergency will go out of business in less than a year if they aren’t able to resume normal business operations within five days of the event. This is a brief window of time that many small businesses aren’t able to maintain.
Knowing the Risks
Each business faces unique liabilities and exposures on a daily basis, and these are often included in a risk management plan. However, there are natural disasters or major upsets that can interfere with production, shipping, or employee safety. Severe storms can delay shipments, cybersecurity threats can shut down your database, or a fire breaks out in the maintenance room. Your plans shouldn’t stop with planning on noticeable risks. They need to include addressing the worst-case scenarios for your business.
The size of your company and the sector you operate in have a part in determining worst-case scenarios. If you work as a consultant, it may be facing a judge or court reporters Sacramento legal system use to try professional liability cases. If you have a manufacturing plant, it could be a natural disaster that wipes out your equipment and production line. If you are a bank, it may be a hack and theft of your clients’ information and monies. Knowing your greatest risks makes it possible to prepare for them.
Identifying the Problems
To prepare for the worst, you need to surround yourself with staff members who know each area of operations. Plan a brainstorming session where each department creates a master “what if?” list. Things to consider include power outages, flooding, data hacks, equipment malfunction, employee death, or vendors going out of business. Look into each area of critical business operations and discuss how those operations could be interrupted. You should be looking at the supply chain, labor, finances, and so on. Prioritize your list according to probability.
Once the areas of potential crisis have been identified, you need to create a comprehensive response plan. Your action steps may have some similarities among incidents, but there will be certain situations that require a targeted response. For instance, an electrical failure may impact the entire employee body working on-site, while a data breach may have a more localized response. Each department needs a specific response plan tailored to any “what if’s” discussed.
After your emergency plans have been developed, they need to be distributed and explained to relevant personnel. You can use an abbreviated form of the plan for all staff but include the contact information and leadership designations in the event of an emergency. You should have several leaders on the response plan since you will need to establish a chain of command in each contingency.
It isn’t enough to have a plan. Everyone needs to know how the plan works. Do more than just discuss the plan with your employees. It needs to be rehearsed and tested. It is common for individuals to panic when a real emergency is taking place, but practicing and running your response plan can develop habitual responses rather than mass panic. At the very least, run drills and conduct team meetings with all response leaders consistently. Always looks for ways to include experience and wisdom into the response plan, teaching your leadership to continually bank their knowledge for a calm and efficient response.
Reassuring the Consumers
When you are faced with a crisis, you need the continued support of your clients and customers in order to move forward. Be sure to include a marketing strategy or customer response team in your emergency plan. Whatever may happen, you need to reassure your customers that your business is solid and working through what may be perceived as chaos.
A response plan that deals with worst-case scenarios may save your company from being a casualty. Preparedness is your best option for moving past an emergency and getting back onto solid footing.