This week, it’s National Small Business Week in the US (April 30th to May 6th), and I wanted to write my first article of the series “Unsolicited Advice”. Because as I always say, the fact that over the years the percentage of small business failures and permanent closures have not decreased, it’s mind blowing. It had me thinking for years: How can I contribute? How can I help?
Small businesses are the backbone of the economy (Marshall & Schrank, 2014). We know that small businesses have an impact on communities, families, and individuals as small businesses alone account for over 50% of the Nation’s payroll (Federal Emergency Management Administration, 2015). So, why not ensure these businesses continue serving their communities, support the backbone of the economy and the Nation’s economy as well?
This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse on May 2nd, 2017. You can access the original post here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/unsolicited-advice-every-small-business-needs-plan-pagan-phd-
Every small business needs a disaster recovery plan.
Although there are many reasons a small business could fail and be forced to close, in this post, I will focus on disaster recovery. However, I want to clarify that a disaster doesn’t necessarily refer to a catastrophic event; instead, it can be any situation that for you, as a business owner, will represent challenges, issues, and/ or financial losses.
It is important to recognize that a disaster (of any kind or type) will have an impact on one or more areas of your business, for example: reputation, finances, employees, operations, equipment, services, etc. It makes sense to plan so when the situation arises you can manage it and recover from it before the damage is not repairable. Remember, a plan will help you as a business owner to take care of your business, employees, and resources.
I am including a list of things you must do to begin the planning process and make the plan work for your business. This is a simple method to plan which follows the principles of the Deliberate Plan© for Your Business. Just follow the steps below!
- Know your risks, be aware.
The first step is to assess your risks and know of risks such as: geographic location risks, structural risks, infrastructure risks, operational risks, environmental risks, etc. Remember that risks will vary according to your specific business, processes, and areas in which you operate. Analyze the impact of each risk for your business.
- Plan for the future, continuity planning.
Understand your business’ functions (internally and externally). Who is better to conduct this analysis than you? You know the processes and you know the staff. You know your clients. List all the processes, materials, and employees that will be necessary to keep the business operating.
Identify which processes and operations are necessary to survive and recover quickly from any interruption. Identify who will help you get the business operating in a reasonable amount of time (before the loss is unbearable). Remember, we are talking about the difference between operating vs. non-operating.
- Who will help? Bring them to the table!
Now that you know what processes you must resume first to ensure your business continues operations, you need a team to help you develop the strategy. Who will oversee implementation? Who will initiate the recovery if you are not there? Bring your “A players” and build a team of committed action takers and leaders. People that can adapt, work under stressful situations and will make decisions and move forward with recovery efforts.
- How? Strategies and Operations.
Your team is in place; now it’s time to strategize. For each risk identified, find potential solutions. How would you and your team recover from that specific risk? What can be done to get back up, when your services or operations get knocked down? Then, select two solutions for each risk (plan a and plan b). Next, develop a procedure. How will each solution be implemented? A step by step set of instructions.
- Make the plan available.
Write down all established strategies and the step by step instructions for others to follow. Then make it a formal plan (it can be a pdf document, inside a binder, a digital copy emailed to your staff, and published in all bulletin boards). Communicate the plan, discuss it with all staff during a meeting. Make sure everyone understands what will happen and what is expected from them.
- Practice, practice, practice!
Just like athletes practice to improve and eventually win competitions, make sure you practice with your team. A plan in a drawer will not work when needed. Make drills and practice as scenarios part of your business. Train new employees and re-train them regularly.
- Evaluate the results of each practice run.
As importance as it is to practice plan implementation, it is important to evaluate the results of each practice run, identify areas for improvement and correct what doesn’t work. In fact, that’s something recommend practicing often, so you know what works and what needs to be tweaked! Once you know what needs to be tweaked, fix it and try again. Practice again until you know, it will work.
- Rinse and repeat!
Now you have a plan, know what works, and what is difficult to achieve, you are on your way to recovery. I also recommend running operations in “survival” mode a couple of times a year, so that you can evaluate and improve processes. If you decide not to practice “survival” mode, update your plan at least once a year. This update will ensure your plan evolves as your business evolves.
Well, there you have it! The continuity of your small business is in your hands. I hope I can help you understand the importance of having a disaster recovery plan and this guide helps you in developing a plan for your business. If you need assistance contact me or schedule your business analysis!