The nightly news often relates the latest natural disaster with its legacy of destruction— loss of property and loss of life. Businesses are disrupted, water supplies destroyed and people without electricity.
If you live in Hurricane or Tornado country and are a small business owner, you probably have a plan for natural disasters. You know how you’ll operate your business after a natural disaster hits your place of business—how you’ll deal with lack of electricity, flooded data centers and other foreseeable events.
But few of us plan for the ultimate crisis—what to do when “we”, the business owner, have a personal crisis and cannot attend to our business. This might happen with a death in the family, an illness, an injury. All of those things we don’t like to think will happen “to us.”
Smart business owners will plan for this crisis—when you are not able to be there yourself. Here are five areas you need to plan for before the crisis.
Customer relations. You need some- one who can call your clients, reschedule meetings, respond to emails and phone calls. This person needs to be trained in your business affairs and have access to all of that information before the crisis occurs. So you need to have an assistant, a customer service department, or someone like your CPA or attorney who can step in and take over your client relations.
Procedures. You need a procedures manual that an experienced administrator could step in and use to operate your business for a period of time. If you are your own webmaster, for ex- ample, you need the access information for each of your sites. You need the procedures for shipping products, refunding purchases, and other common tasks in a detailed printed or digital form. Keep it in a place where others can find it—either in your office or online in a secure site.
Backlog of issues. If you publish an ezine, you need to have several issues completed ahead of time. That way the ezine can continue to be distributed, even when you’re not able to write. Without it, client relationships can be lost or damaged. It only takes a few weeks of not hearing from you before subscribers forget who you are.
Residual income. When you’re in a crisis, the last thing you need to worry about is how you’re going to pay your bills. When you have established Online Oil Wells (sales sites that sell digital products and deliver them automatically) that continue to crank out income even when unattended, you can be assured you’ll have a steady income.
Accounts payable. You can’t afford to ruin your credit rating while you’re in crisis. So you’ll need someone to physically pick up the bills from the mailbox. Plus you’ll need someone who has access to your checking account, online and offline, who can pay those bills for you, on time.
A word of caution about choosing people for these roles. Your first temptation may be to ask a close friend or family member to be your “backup.” The danger of that is that if you are in crisis because of a death in the family or your own illness, they will be involved in the same crisis or at least in helping you through it. So try to set up systems outside of your close relations.
Finally, be sure your loved ones know who to turn to should a crisis occur. There is no point in your having made all of the preparations if they are unaware of who to contact to put the plan into motion.
While we never plan to be sick or injured or have someone close to us fall into that category, things happen that are not in our control. That’s the definition of a crisis. But when we understand that such things can and do occur, we can take steps to ensure we have a business left after the crisis has passed. Don’t put off your crisis planning another day.