If you’re just setting up on your own, getting your business off the ground can be a daunting and nerve-wracking experience.
Quite aside from wondering if you’ll actually make any money out of your venture and potentially having to deal with the public, there are 101 behind-the-scenes variables that you simply have to get right or face the prospect of crashing and burning.
For many small business owners the last thing they want to think about is what should happen in the face of a disaster, natural or otherwise. But it is precisely this kind of business continuity plan that should be put in place at the earliest possible moment, alongside your marketing plan and your shop window display.
Aside from customer care and the basics of making transactions you’ll also need to train up key members of staff in the day-to-day running of your business, should you go sick and not be able to keep up with the daily inputting of timesheets, invoices and so on. This kind of preparation is vital in keeping your business afloat even if you’re not there in person to steer it through.
There will be much you’ll need to train staff up in and unless you’ve opted to do your bookkeeping the old fashioned way in ledgers, there’ll be all the business-oriented software packages you’re using to keep tabs of your transactions.
There’s never been a better time to get yourself prepared and get that continuity plan in place.
Expect The Best, Prepare For The Worst
When thinking about your business and in particular about continuity planning, it’s important to remember that the worst probably won’t happen. Unless you live in an area that is constantly under threat from natural disasters or has sporadic internet connection then the chances are that you’ll be safe from problems.
If you are at risk from the fury of Mother Nature, there are going to be some quite specific precautions you can put in place, whether you run a shop front or an online business.
In either case, if you have a website then make sure you have a go-to page update you can quickly put up letting customers and staff know what’s going on and with any luck reassuring everyone that you can still trade (if indeed that’s the case).
Aside from that, you should get in contact with any business organisations, such as your local business support network or even a national agency to see if there’s any extra support you can gain in times of crisis.
If you’re affected by a fire, flood, hurricane or similar be sure to document any damage that might have occurred. This will help form the basis of any insurance claims you make further down the line.
If you are a business that carries stock, it’s always a good idea to keep a fraction of it in a different location. Hopefully that will help in filling any orders until you can make replacements.
Natural disasters aside, in our modern world we also have to consider other threats besides whatever nature and a dodgy broadband connections throws at us.
All of us, whether in business or at home, try our best to at least have the basics in internet security. We may not have the most powerful or the very latest in anti-virus software but we do change our password regularly and we do remember to download our software updates as and when they are offered to us.
While this may not affect us too much in our home use, a hack into a business site can be devastating and it’s only when you’ve had your files held to ransom or your financial details cloned that you realise how vulnerable your business can be from unscrupulous hackers.
There are of course steps you can take to prepare your business. Use software that encrypts your most confidential files and reports and opt for Cloud-based storage over your hardrive. Be ruthless about your storage and filing, always place documents where they need to be straight away and not left hanging around on your desktop.
Look For Risk
Aside from creating best practice when it come to your ICT standards, start by looking out for potential risks and weaknesses within your business.
Be honest with yourself and make a note of weak areas that might suffer if they came up against any stresses and strains from, for example, a technology failure.
All these risks might feel daunting at first but they are no more than many other businesses face, whether run purely online, in the high street or a mixture of both. Taking charge now will help put your mind at rest that you have a plan in place should you ever need to call upon it.
Prepare Your Plan
It will seem strange at first to imagine what would happen in the event of a flood or fire, but once you’re underway you’ll be glad you put the time and effort into thinking things through.
There are several factors to consider when planning. You’ll need to have plans in place to access your most necessary computing software from another office or off-work site, making sure that any passwords are carried over with you and well known to the staff members who may need them. Make sure you have access to any funding you might have from alternative sources to boost your refurbishment.
If you’re involved in catering or the restaurant business, for example, then making available staff time sheets such as those created by https://getsling.com/blog/free-employee-scheduling-software/ will be one of the elements to consider when thinking about getting your business up and running again as soon as possible.
Considering how to communicate with staff is another important aspect, making sure that everyone has a direct line to you and a way of receiving information from you in an emergency is an important tool. If your computers are down than an alternative such as a WhatsApp group will answer this problem immediately.
Practise Your Plan
This might sound unnecessary and time wasting in some ways but if there’s more than a handful of you working in your business, then making sure everyone knows what they’re doing can only come about through practise.
At best you’ll see how your careful preparation has paid off and at the very worst you’ll be able to spot the holes and anything else you overlooked during the assessment process. It’s a valuable lesson to learn.
After the dust has settled and you’re able to look back at how your practice went with a clear head and the benefit of hindsight, talk to team members and get as much feedback as you can about how the practice affected performance. Then, and this is the most important part of this stage, revise your plan where it needs changing. It’s easy to forget but don’t forget to implement change and send around any updated versions.
Face Your Fears
It can be daunting putting yourself, your livelihood and your staff under such scrutiny but it’s a necessary and beneficial process to go through and one which many businesses fail to do, resulting in catastrophic failure in the event of a disaster.
However, studies show that far from causing businesses to stutter and fail, bouncing back from an emergency can actually have positive effects on the organisation and here’s why:
Simply put, you learn resilience. In an age where we rarely have to face danger or have our resourcefulness stretched too much, if you do face disaster it can make you much stronger in both your personal and professional outlook.
It might be that during your shutdown, however long or short, you uncover issues that you’d never even thought of or accounted for and that can be hugely beneficial for fixing the roof while the sun’s still shining. Another point to consider is staffing. You may well discover that there are some staff who are absolutely amazing in an emergency, they keep their heads, remember the plan and even bring some further skills that you never knew they had into the mix. This might mean you can make a staffing change and have your team playing to their strengths, taking on different roles and undergoing training, all of which can give your business a new lease of life.
Finally, don’t forget to have adequate business insurance in place to cover any eventuality, whether natural or manmade the sooner you get your business back and running again, the sooner you’ll be back to making a profit. Keep your insurance details on Cloud storage as well as physically available to take the stress out of finding them in an emergency.
Whether you’re just starting up or have been on the business scene a while, there is always something you can learn from looking at the potential weaknesses in your business.
Take time to go through old plans today and update them or sit down and create a brand new one.
You won’t regret the moment you covered your back and planned for the worst, even if that day never happens.