If you work for a company, there should be a plan in place, and you should know where it is and what your role is in the plan. This is one of the most overlooked pieces of information and documentation for small companies. Large corporations are required to have Disaster Recovery or Business Continuity Plan in place. Some clients require it, as well as financial institutions. They want to know you and/or your company has a plan if something really bad happens.
What happens if you get hit by a bus?
If this is your company, you need this documentation in place because you have staff relying on your for their livelihood, clients who trust you and your services, vendors who will be looking for money or what to do next. Having this business continuity plan in place can instill more confidence from clients in what you do for them. It also adds to your credibility as a company.
Here are some items to define or create as part of your plan:
- Assemble a list of the most pertinent human and physical resources. This includes alternative locations, technical vendors that can rebuild lost systems or help restore them. This is not limited to your in-house staff. This should include the POINT person(s) who has the access to all legal, financial and other contacts to help the business continue.
- Define all job duties and responsibilities for entire staff and all roles. This should be stored in the cloud with access given to key staff that will be part of your response team.
- Define your response team. You'll need at least one point person who can contact the rest of the response team.
- Defined workflow in your office. What are the procedures when you get a new client, when someone gets behind in payments, a client wants to leave, a staff member needs a vacation - all of these are part of workflow and need to be defined and stored in the cloud or an off-site server.
- Cross-training. You don't ever want to have staff members that can only do their one assigned task or position you hired them for. Even the part-time filing intern should be able to expand their duties when called upon. You need them to be able to pick up the ball for another staff member or department depending on load or situation.
- Create a checklist of instructions for all staff rolls so that the empty position can be filled, duties can be shifted or duplicated by another staff member.
So now you have this pile of documentation, list of assets and people. Now you have to define who does what and when. Is it a temporary situation like a broken server that you are replacing, flooded carpet, something died in the walls, a staff member on maternity leave? Or is it a permanent situation such as the owner or CEO dying, someone ends up in jail, or your building burns down? This will affect the plan or stages of the plan.
Can you do your job without a computer? Can your staff? Can your clients reach you without a phone system or email? Time to assemble Plan B resources. If your office is flooded - is your team all remote, or will they need a temporary place to show up? Can they get to their files they were working on or were they only in the one place on your server in the office that has been flooded? Think thoroughly about this answer. If you don't have a way to recover your systems, files, procedures off site, then you are pretty doomed. You need to get an off-site storage and back up system set up ASAP.
This is a short video on this topic geared toward Real Estate Brokers, but is applicable to most small businesses, courtesy of FreeBrokerSchool.com and Dr. Mike Krein. He pulls no punches.
You may not think about all of the people and companies that help your business run. But you need that list other than in Quickbooks. A vendor directory that can easily be accessed, and kept up to date in real time is critical. These vendors will need to know about any permanent and possibly any temporary changes. What about your cleaning service, insurance, banks, delivery services, ISP, phones, all utilities? If you have to change locations temporarily, the Post Office can help you with a temporary forwarding service.
If something has happened to a key staff person, CEO, VPs of anything - did they have meetings or trips scheduled? Those people will need to be notified - TACTFULLY. We are not always aware of the true relationship and friendship our key team members have with clients and vendors. It may be very emotional for them. This brings us to the next piece of this critical topic - who will speak for the company and what is the message that you all give to clients, suppliers, competitors, and the media - including SOCIAL MEDIA? This also means having bios and professional photos available of all key staff, and a list of their personal point person to respectfully stay in contact with.
This was the topic of a podcast with Linda Zimmer talking about Crisis communications Plans. This gets into the statement by the company that stays true to company mission statement and culture. Not everyone should be speaking on behalf of the company. This includes social media accounts and interviews. Make sure those roles are defined in your documentation we covered above.
Who tells and what do you tell all of your fans on Social Media and the television crews?
- 10:50 - Do you have a place on your site with a list of whom to contact at your company for crisis situations? You'd be surprised how hard it can be to find the person YOU would want to be the POINT person.
- 13:03 - What is a REAL crisis? It's in REAL time and needs to be dealt with NOW
- 13:48 - Small businesses need a plan more than ever because one crisis can take out your company.
- 14:15 - Remembering how the big change in Google search semantics has affected many small businesses who relied on keyword stuffing, SEO the "old way"
- 14:45 Google can change their algorithms overnight - if that's what you count on, then that has be part of your plan.
- 23:54 - Know what your company represents
- 24:11 - Without a known message and tone, your response can become fragmented causing more damage to your company than the crisis itself
- 30:29 - seeking legal counsel with your plan
Don't be afraid to ask companies you rely on if they have a plan like this in place. I've responded to several RFPs and the fact I had all bases covered in case of a disaster in my own company gave them the confidence to go with me, even though I'm an army of under 5. I have the resources to make a transition nearly seamless and their services will continue and their content will flow.
Being the mush I am, just writing posts like this and working on my own PERSONAL plan - not even talking about a will - just the part of who will take the pets and who should fly up to comfort my children, makes me tear up so much, I can't see my screen and I get quite sad. Some big hitter I am!
Put on your big girl panties or big boy chones and get this done. There is no excuse. You are responsible enough to have a business. Be responsible enough to have a plan in place if you have to pass it to another quite suddenly.