The devastation in Moore, Oklahoma, is yet another reminder that in addition to planning for our own safety during a crisis, we need to take steps to prepare our businesses for disaster, too. It’s incredibly easy to say, “That will never happen to me,” until it does. And in the middle of chaos, the last thing you want to be doing is figuring out how to take care of yourself AND your business.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions for your disaster recovery plan and the things you can do before a crisis hits to ease the stress afterwards.
1. Backup, backup, backup
It took me a few years to make this one a priority, but I definitely sleep better at night. Each day, I back up my hard drives to a remote location. I use Spideroak, but know that others have made use of Dropbox, Carbonite, and other online storage options. Besides being a preventative measure against mechanical failure, it also reassures me that if a disaster hits the actual building, I have another way of reaching and restoring my data. At some point, look into options for securing a physical backup offsite.
2. Figure out what you’re going to say before you need it
Before disaster strikes, write a brief message that can be quickly modified to describe your specific circumstances. This message can then appear on your website and/or in an email responder. Include alternative ways to contact you (if that’s possible) and try to give people a sense of when you’ll be more available. If you’re completely cut off from communications, look to your fall-back network (#3) to help get your message out.
3. Create a fall-back network
If you’re a solopreneur one of the best things you can do is recruit people you trust to stand-in for you and your business during a disaster. This does two things: 1) It lets you focus on your immediate problems; and 2) It shows your customers you’re prepared and responsible. When you’re building your network, look for people who can provide support (e.g., checking email) and action (e.g., follow through on a project deadline).
4. Know your area, know your people
If you run a physical business that requires a storefront to operate, you’ll want to make a list, both physical of digital, of area resources and people. For instance, keep on file the names of a Realtor, the contact number for your utilities (e.g., gas, electric, water), and a local contractor/plumber/electrician. In the event a disaster physically damages your property, you’ll already know who you’re going to call if you need help repairing your property and perhaps making arrangements for a temporary location until your store is repaired.
5. Save as much as possible
It’s a good idea for everyone to save as much money as possible. But for entrepreneurs it’s doubly so. You are the primary source of income, and unless your business can keep going indefinitely without doing your day-to-day-work, you need a financial cushion. I’ve often heard six months income saved is a good goal to work towards, but frankly, anything is better than nothing. And if you find yourself dealing with a disaster, the last thing you want to face is whether you’ve got enough money to get you and your business through it. Yes, insurance is a plus, but between the time you file a claim and receive the payment, you’ll be glad you’ve got other resources.
Just a few steps now will save you many headaches later on when you’ll want to be focused on other things. Make the time and don’t try to convince yourself that a disaster won’t ever hit you or your business.
To help those in Oklahoma, Christoper Penn has put together a great list of services that can use our help at this time, including: