Is your small business ready?


Earthquakes in Alaska. Fires in California. Tornadoes in the central-west. Floods on the east coast and the gulf coast.

Water pipes break in your computer room. Your freezers are breaking down. The electricity is cut off for an extended period. Death of a key player in your business. Someone hackers your data.

Big disasters and small catastrophes. Your company faces them all. Understand that the problem of a disaster occurring in your company is not so, but when.

The question is: are you ready?

By their nature, small businesses with limited resources are more vulnerable to events that interrupt their routines. Yes, you may have fire insurance, but what about coffee on your data server? And does your insurance cover the loss of income that you will have until your business becomes operational again?

You can not protect yourself from all possibilitiesbut, you have to take some simple steps that get you back into business as quickly as possible with the least interruption of time and money.

How?

It starts with a plan of urgency. You can get templates for such examples at the following address: Education Extension Disaster Education Network at http://bit.ly/EDENReadyBiz or FEMA address at www.ready.gov / business.

Then take 3 simple steps:

First, plan to stay in business.

  • Know the potential disturbances
  • Evaluate how your business works
  • Protect your employees
  • Provide on-site evacuation and shelter
  • Preparing for medical emergencies (CPR, first aid, etc.)
  • Train yourself with the help of fire extinguishers and other prevention tools.

Then talk to your staff – staff, employees, key suppliers, key customers, bankers, family, etc.

  • Create an emergency planning team
  • Practical exercises (fire, tornado, etc.)
  • Encourage employees to prepare home emergency kits and develop emergency plans for the family
  • Detail how you will be in touch with your employees, suppliers, customers and others
  • Discuss with your employees and your own family the need to balance the needs of the family and those of the company in the event of a disaster

Finally, protect your investment.

  • Meet with your insurance provider to understand and review current and potential additional coverage, such as loss of income or business disruption.
  • Preparing for breakdowns and disruption of public services
  • Secure physical assets
  • Protect your data and computer systems (offsite backup, etc.)
  • Perhaps you even consider options to relocate all or part of your business (for example, if you need a cold storage or freezing space)

These steps are not inclusive but are provided to allow you to think about "what would you do if". They show, however, that planning does not require much time or money, but can save you such resources in the long run.

The Purdue Family Business Initiative recently published an article on protecting your business from natural disasters. They conducted a large study on the survival of small businesses after Katrina (https://ag.purdue.edu/agecon/PIFF/Pages/newsletters.aspx).

You can not protect yourself against all possible disturbances, but By taking a proactive approach, you can rest easy and recover faster if something happens.

About Glenn Muske

Glenn Muske is an independent expert in rural small business, working for GM Consulting – Your Partner for Small Business Success. He provides advice and writes articles for county extension officers and newspapers in North Dakota. Previously, he was a specialist in rural and agri-food business development at the Extension Service of the North Dakota State University – Center for Community Vitality.

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