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Staying in Business When Your Business Is Interrupted

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Staying in Business When Your Business Is Interrupted

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Be Prepared sign with sky background.jpegSupporting Strategies has addressed the importance of disaster readiness for small businesses in recent posts by Pete Denholm, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Northeast Florida and Andy Hale, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Austin and Dallas. But it's important for business owners to understand that it doesn't necessarily take a widespread natural disaster to shut a company down.

Unfortunately, even a small, localized event can have disastrous consequences. In fact, small disasters can be even more devastating because, unlike major hurricanes, they often happen without warning.

A Flood from Above
Let's say a pipe bursts on an upper floor in your building over the weekend and water leaks down to your ground-level office. The damage is significant enough to shut your physical place of business down for a week or two. How will you stay up and running while your office is closed?The time to answer that question is now — not when you open the door on Monday morning to find your desk covered with waterlogged ceiling tiles. Here's some advice on how to prepare.

Ask the Tough Questions
If you and your employees suddenly had to work without going to the office, could you? Is working from home an option for you and your team? If not, where would you go?

Also, are your important files backed up to the cloud or a remote location? Do you have everything you need to access your systems remotely, such as passwords and smart cards? Do you need special equipment or software for doing business with banks, vendors or other outside service providers? Do you need copies of certain paper documents for legal reasons?

Backups and Blackouts
Do you have backups for your systems? Just as important, have you tested your backups lately to be sure they work? If a leaky pipe fries your computer system, that's not when you want to discover that the software that was supposed to back up your files stopped working six months ago.

For an extreme example of an unanticipated problem, consider the widespread blackout of 2003. If you lose power for several days, what's your contingency plan? At minimum, you need to store all your data in the cloud.

People and Processes
To survive a business interruption, you need to make it clear in advance not only what needs to be done, but also who is going to do it. You might want to spell out a call chain, for example: Anna calls Bob, Bob calls Cindy, Cindy calls Dave and so on.

Do you have up-to-date off-hours phone numbers and email addresses for all of your employees? As more and more people phase out their landlines, you need to be sure your contact information is current. One simple way to do that is to test your call chain (and all of your emergency procedures, for that matter) once a year.

You also have to take into account the length of the interruption. Your employees might be able to improvise by setting up their laptop on their kitchen table for a day, but that's not a practical solution if the interruption lasts a month. Could you set up a temporary office somewhere if you had to?

It's just as important to document each of your employee's job descriptions so you'll have the big picture of exactly who is doing what. Technology and systems change rapidly today. Small businesses are often teams of specialists who know a lot about their own jobs but not very much about what everyone else does. Things might function smoothly when you're all working together under one roof. But if a burst pipe forces your team to work remotely for a while, could each person function independently while also remaining part of the whole?

How you answer these questions could determine the future of your small business.
Jay Bloom

Author:

Jay Bloom

Legal and Tax Disclaimer

This website is created by Supporting Strategies to provide general bookkeeping and accounting information only. Supporting Strategies does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and the information contained herein is not intended to do so. As such, the information provided should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, legal, and accounting advisors, and you should consult with a tax, legal and accounting professional before engaging in any transaction.