How to Recover and Get Your Business Back on Track After a Major Disaster
As the owner of a business you not only have the ultimate obligation to protect your investment, but you are also obligated to protect your employees' safety and communicate important information to your residents and/or customers in the event of a disaster. Having a disaster recovery plan in place is key. But how do you start? Where to begin? Much of your planning should involve asking questions and then planning around the answers you formulate.
What would I do if my business was down for a day? 3 days? Indefinitely? Do you have a list of the contents of your business (for insurance purposes)? Do your employees know what to do? Do your customers know what's happening? The best test of your plan is to experience the actual disaster and see how well you have planned for it. LEARNING is the most important thing. If you can learn from an experience and have a better future result, then that experience (even if it's bad) has value.
You should consider what happens after the storm just as much as you prepare for its arrival. Hurricane Sandy provided that difficult test for countless businesses on the East Coast. Several coastal areas were heavily damaged by the storm and the cleanup effort is still continuing. The storm brought major flooding and power outages. How did your business fare? How quickly after the storm were you able to begin operations again? These are some important questions to ask yourself as you prepare for the next one.
First, prepare your business for the storm. Do you have insurance? Does this insurance protect you from losses attributed to natural disasters? Do you need additional insurance due to the nature of your business? Do you carry flood insurance? If you have the right insurance and protection in case of loss, then you will have a greater peace of mind going into the storm. If you do not carry insurance, do you have enough cash or credit to survive? How long will that money take you? Do you have all your files backed-up to somewhere safe (like the Cloud) in case the entire physical business is lost? Could you operate remotely if needed? Did you take pictures of the damage? You should be able to answer all of these questions in your Recovery Plan and your employees should know exactly what their roles are in it.
Secondly, prepare your employees for the storm. Information coupled with compassion is the key. They know they have a job to do at work to prepare for the storm, but you also need to realize they have the more important job of preparing their own family for that same storm. Keep the lines of communication open here. Do you have an emergency contact list that is easily accessible? Have you given your staff ample time to prepare their homes? Do your employees know what to do after the storm has passed? How quickly do you expect them back at work? The storm has passed…have you called all your employees just to see how they are? That one gesture will go far in the minds of your employees…they will know that you care.
In preparing for the storm and cleaning up afterwards, your customers will need to be able to communicate with you. Do you have a website? Can you update it with communications so that your customers know what's going on? If your business has a Facebook account, you can use that to communicate information immediately and most cell phones are advanced enough that you don't even to need to be in front of a computer. Communication is the key. Your most loyal customers will be wondering how you fared and will be even more excited to know when they can come back in and start spending money with you. In any disaster, communication is critical. How can customers find out about services during storm hazards? Who makes sure that the customer information system is working?
Once you can answer these questions, you can frame a Disaster Recovery Plan around your business operations. When a disaster is imminent, you can be thinking about more important things like protecting your family and allowing your employees to do to the same.