When you start your own business, you put everything into its growth and success – your passion, time, talent, energy and financial resources. And while every business owner should be prepared for different obstacles, ups and downs during this journey, you never know when a disaster can strike your company, and once it does, it might be too late.
Whether it is forces of nature like a hurricane and earthquake or outbreak like COVID-19, disasters take many forms and can have a disastrous effect on businesses. How quickly you react and get back on your feet after a disaster largely depends on how carefully you plan your business recovery. If you haven’t yet developed an emergency plan for your small business, here are some ideas to consider to continue operations in the event of a disaster.
Develop An Emergency Operation Plan
It’s crucial to be fully prepared with a written disaster plan that outlines critical steps, including plans for dealing with different types of disasters as your response to a cybersecurity breach will differ from how you react to a flood.
Depending on the type of your organisation, it may be wise to plan the shutdown for a longer period, including the use of temporary premises. For instance, if your retail store has been out of use for several months, can you temporarily relocate it or use opportunities for online retailing?
Don’t forget to think about logistics. If the phone lines don’t work, how will you communicate? Or if you cannot access your building, where your staff will be able to work? Consider including such contingencies in your plan as well.
Also, always keep an emergency kit in place. It should contain water, a fire extinguisher, batteries, flashlights, non-perishable food, whistle and first aid items.
Make sure your team is trained according to the plans, and each employee understands hir or her role in advance. Assigning responsibilities to your employees before the crisis will relieve some of the stress and empower them to help get the business back on its feet.
Protect Your Data
No matter where your company is located or what type of business you run, safely store all your important business paperwork. Keep existing documents out of the office and make copies as needed. Also, don’t overlook the benefits of working in the cloud. Back up your electronic files by scanning, uploading and syncing business documents to cloud storage. This will help to keep your company running smoothly while allowing you to access information when needed at any given time.
It’s also important to have a list of phone numbers and email addresses for employees, emergency services and insurance companies available at your home.
Additionally, ensure your financial statements, including income statements, balance sheets, and tax returns, provide an accurate picture of the current financial position of your business. Government disaster relief programs require this information to accurately calculate your company’s financial loss. This can be accomplished through a full understanding of your financial statements and the assistance of a good certified auditor.
Maintain Communication With Your Employees & Customers
Your emergency plan should involve more than what to do before a disaster affects your company. It should also emphasise how communications will be maintained during and after a disaster.
Firstly, you need to keep in touch with your employees during and after this time. If possible, maintain communication with each worker individually to ensure they are safe, especially if they need to relocate.
Second of all, you should connect with your customers and clients. This can include additional emails, press releases or social media posts to inform your audience about the impact of the disaster on your organisation and issues you are currently facing. Also, make sure to provide your customers with contact information in case they have questions. If the company has reduced its opening hours or will be closed indefinitely, inform clients how the delay might affect the way you do business and don’t forget to alert them when you are opening your doors again.
Take Care Of Your Business’s Online Presence
While we often think that cybercrime as a problem for huge retailers and banks, small businesses are becoming more frequent targets these days as they generally do not take adequate measures to protect online information.
But how can you ensure your online presence is protected? The basics include providing online security through day-to-day operations as well as requiring strong password protection for all digital equipment associated with your business. This applies not only to desktop computers but also for smartphones and laptops.
Develop a clear cybersecurity policy and make sure all members of your team follow it. Consider using modern software such as anti-malware software, anti-ransomware and encryption programs for sensitive information.
Create A Crisis Budget
For most businesses, the financial impact of a disaster can be as destructive as the physical damage, because they usually run out of funds while they wait for insurance payments. If your business is unable to generate income and operate for a long time (from a couple of days to several months), what will you do to survive? It is advised to reserve at least 1-2 months of funds in case of financial emergencies.
To be even more prepared, you can use financial support to help your business stay afloat. Luckily, there are many sources of funding available to help businesses struggling with financial problems caused by various factors like coronavirus pandemic. Be sure to apply for various grants and programs your organisation is eligible for to cover costs, pay your employees and keep your funds safe while reopening your business during these tough times.
Nowadays, you can find various options for small and medium-sized organisations across the UK; for instance, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS lenders), which allows you to get financial support fast with two funding solutions. Whether you need to pay for your workplace, hire more employees or create an emergency reserve of capital, CBILS scheme offers hassle-free CBILS loans and a flexible CBILS revolving credit facility to help businesses that are losing income and seeing their cash flow disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.