Unplanned events can have a devastating effect on small businesses. Crises such as fire, damage to stock, illness of key staff or IT system failure could all make it difficult or even impossible to carry out your normal day-to-day activities.
At worst, this could see you losing important customers - and even going out of business altogether.
But with good planning you can take steps to minimise the potential impact of a disaster - and ideally prevent it happening in the first place. Here are a few ideas to consider:
It's essential to plan thoroughly to protect yourself from the impact of potential crises since you may lack the resources to cope easily in a crisis.
Failure to plan could be disastrous. At best you risk losing customers while you're getting your business back on its feet. At worst your business may never recover.
As part of the planning process you should:
- identify potential crises that might affect you
- determine how you intend to minimise the risks of these disasters occurring
- set out how you'll react if a disaster occurs in a business continuity plan
- test the plan regularly
2. Assess the impact
You need to analyse the probability and consequences of crises that could affect your business. This involves:
- assessing the likelihood of a particular crisis occurring - and its possible frequency
- determining its possible impact on your operations
This kind of analysis should help you to identify which business functions are essential to day-to-day business operations. You're likely to conclude that certain roles within the business - while necessary in normal circumstances - aren't absolutely critical in a disaster scenario.
3. Minimize the Potential Damage
Once you've identified the key risks your business faces take steps to protect your business functions against them.
Good electrical and gas safety could help protect premises against fire. Installing fire and burglar alarms also makes sense.
Think what you would do in an emergency if your premises couldn't be used. You might consider an arrangement with another local business to share premises temporarily if a crisis affected either of you.
If you use vital pieces of equipment, you may want to cover them with maintenance plans guaranteeing a fast emergency call-out.
IT and communications
Installing anti-virus software, backing up data and ensuring the right maintenance agreements are in place can all help protect your IT systems. You might also consider backing up your data offsite on a secure server.
Printing out copies of your customer database can be a good way of ensuring you can still contact customers if your IT system fails.
Try to ensure you're not dependent on a few staff for key skills by getting them to train other people.
Consider whether you could get temporary cover from a recruitment agency if illness left you without several key members of staff. And take health and safety seriously to reduce the risk of staff injuries.
Insurance forms a central part of an effective risk-management strategy.
You should draw up a business continuity plan setting out how you will cope if a crisis does occur.
It should detail:
- the key business functions you need to get operating as quickly as possible and the resources you'll need to do so
- the roles of individuals in the emergency
Making the most of the first hour after an emergency occurs is essential in minimising the impact. As a result, your plan needs to explain the immediate actions to be taken.
These are some steps that can be taken to ensure that damage from any crisis is minimized. Proper planning can be critical to survival.