I bet you have plenty of insurance. You insure your car, home, property, health, maybe even your life. So it always amazes me that, despite our best attempts to prepare for how unpredictable life can be, how few small businesses are actually ready for a disaster.
Sure, some of your insurance could cover some of a loss; but then again, it may not. Whether it is a hurricane like Irene or Katrina, a flood or something else, the truth is that many of these things are uninsurable (for example, try getting earthquake coverage in Southern California). But perhaps more importantly, insurance is only one small part of being prepared should a bad thing (and not even necessarily the worst thing) strike your business.
Disasters come in all shapes, sizes and forms:
- Natural disasters, like hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes
- Man-made disasters like riots and terrorism
- Fire and flood
- Theft and other loss
Bad things happen, that’s a fact. Example: In 2002, after Hurricane Andrew, I met Stan the accountant. Like many small businesses, Stan had kept all of his records on his computer at the office, including client tax returns, client lists, business records . . . everything. While he had backup copies, it too was on-site and so when the hurricane hit, being unable to get to his office at that moment, Stan lost not only his data and backup, but all of his physical files and other records too. He lost his entire business.
So it behooves the smart small businessperson to plan for the best, but prepare for the worst. As Stan told me at the time, “Please, tell your readers to just take some basic steps to ensure that their businesses can survive a disaster.”
With the height of hurricane season under way, it is important to take Stan’s advice and lesson to heart in order to avoid letting what happened to him happen to you.
Here are some basic and easy steps you can take that can make a huge difference:
Back up your data: Of course we all know that we should back up our computers regularly, and some of us even do it. But backing up sometimes is not good enough, and failing to back up remotely is business negligence.
So this is where cloud computing comes in. Many companies offer online backup services that are easy, affordable and reliable. The important thing is that you sign up for one and begin this process.
Have a backup power option: If the power goes out, you could lose you data, or, depending on your business, your business. So consider getting a backup generator, as well as some sort of backup battery system for your computers so that they can be shut down properly if needed.
Create an emergency supply kit: Store water, food, first-aid supplies, flashlights, whistles, duct tape, etc. in a safe spot.
Secure important documents: Critical documents should be copied and saved off-site, ideally in a fireproof safe.
Plan: Your disaster preparedness plan should include the following:
- An evacuation plan
- A phone or email tree to keep everyone in the loop
- A way to keep things running if possible. Share with your team a contact list of your suppliers, clients and payroll system. Be sure to assign responsibilities for who will do what.
The federal government has a great website that can give you even more information, called Ready.gov. You should check that out as well.
About Steve Strauss
Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.