The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) calls it Continuity of Operations, or COOP. It's a plan to ensure essential government agencies continue to function in the event of a disaster. As the devastation recently wrought by Hurricane Matthew made painfully clear, private businesses should have similar plans in place.
To help you get started, the Department of Homeland Security website has a diagram that outlines a basic Business Continuity Plan. In general, your COOP plan should begin with a business impact analysis. From there, it's a matter of defining your recovery strategies, developing the specifics of your plan and testing it on a periodic basis. At a minimum, every plan needs to address recovery procedures and manual workarounds for standard operations.
Sound like too much to take on yourself? Many private consultants out there can assist you in formulating a COOP plan for your organization's specific needs.
We Put “Support” in Supporting Strategies
Supporting Strategies clients are finding that our business model meets some COOP criteria already. Here are four examples:
- All records are in the cloud. Supporting Strategies leverages cloud services for all accounting transactions and records, including copies of receipts, bills, invoices and vendor/client contracts. These records are accessible to clients anytime, anywhere, no matter what happens to their physical place of business. So even if your paper records are wiped out, your business won't be.
- Our employees are geographically dispersed. I make it a point to meet my clients face-to-face to better understand their circumstances and help solve their problems. But my team is geographically dispersed between Michigan and Florida. So if a hurricane or other catastrophic event creates a disruption, my clients in the affected region will have backup support available when they're ready to get their business up and running again. In the meantime, we can continue to process bills and invoices. We can also assist with insurance claims, financing and various bookkeeping needs. Even if your employees can't work during a crisis, ours can.
- We provide redundancy. Supporting Strategies supports all clients with a team approach. Usually the team consists of a Financial Operations Associate (FOA) and a Financial Operations Manager (FOM). The FOA provides most of the day-to-day operational support, while the FOM oversees the work as a second pair of eyes and can also provide backup when needed. This helps not only in times of emergency but also during planned absences such as vacations — a luxury that many businesses with accountants on staff can't afford.
- We employ documented processes and procedures. We record all our clients' weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual financial tasks in our proprietary cloud-managed system. If an assigned Supporting Strategies team member is offline during an emergency, we simply reassign the tasks. Having documented processes and procedures in place ensures continuity in the event a Supporting Strategies employee unfamiliar with your business needs to take over management of your account on a temporary basis.
Do your vendors, suppliers and contractors offer the same level of backup as Supporting Strategies? If not, you need to remedy that as part of your COOP plan now — before disaster strikes. The future of your business may depend on it.