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Creating A Disaster Recovery Plan For Your Business

40% of Small Businesses NEVER Reopen After a Disaster

Posted Mar 28, 2018
Small businesses need to invest the time to identify their "disaster" risks and create a plan to recover from them should they ever occur.

Fire. Earthquake. Flood. Data Systems Crash. Theft.

The unexpected happens to businesses every day. Without a disaster recovery plan in place, the results can be pretty bad.  FEMA reports that 40% or more of small businesses hit by disaster never open again.  Not only should your recovery plan be documented, it should also be tested and understood by all parties involved.

Every business’s plan would look completely different from the next and would relate to specific risks you face. For instance, if you are in a flood zone, an area prone to hurricanes or in an area that sees a lot of theft, those would be examples of risks you’d include in your plan.

Of course, other risks are common to all businesses — fire, data crash, loss of a key employee. Be sure to think of all aspects of your business when you compile your “risk list.”

It might help if you use a flowchart to organize your disaster recovery plan, with each potential risk in a square. Then start spidering out the actions that go along with that risk, breaking down each one into smaller actions. Pretty soon an entire web is created and you have a plan!

There are also free templates online to help you build your disaster recovery plan, including this one from TechTarget.

It might also be useful if you thought of your plan in one of these three ways:

Preventive, Detective, and Corrective.

Those are pretty self-explanatory terms, but let’s break them down with a few examples.

A preventive plan includes steps you can take to prevent a problem, such as doing a server backup nightly so data is not lost.

A detective plan would include steps to monitor situations in real-time and adjust, if needed, such as switching to a new antivirus software. In this fashion, you’re finding out about a threat and neutralizing it before it can affect you.

A corrective plan would include steps to take after something happens, such as damage from a  flood. With this approach, you’d detail who to call for government help, what clean-up services to contact, and how you’d tell customers about your situation, among other things.

Here’s an example of the preventive/detective/corrective approach in action. And let’s keep using a flood as our disaster.

A preventive plan would include things like making sure important documents are not stored on the floor or even too close to the ground, as well as checking that you have proper flood insurance.

Detective plans would include checking your building after a heavy rainstorm and assessing if water is consistently getting into the building and if it’s getting any worse.  Notice that we’ve expanded the thought of “flood damage” to include other forms of water damage.

Corrective plans cover steps to take in case a flood does actually occur, such as having the names and phone numbers of a clean-up crew, FEMA, and any state authorities you’d need to be in touch with. It could also include how you would inform customers of your store’s closure.

Once you’ve built a plan, assign jobs.

What roles will specific employees or managers play? Responsibilities need to be discussed, understood, and set.

Take the flood example above. Who handles the process of getting the flood insurance and keeping it updated? Who checks the property after a rainstorm and, if they do find water, what do they do?

Of course, once roles are assigned, you need to be sure your team can do the job. What resources do they need? Do they have access to the vital contacts’ information? Do the various authorities they will speak with need to have your employee’s info on file as an authorized spokesperson for your business? Are the steps outlined to find the document on the network drive, update it, and send it off to whoever needs to see it?

What other factors come into play? For instance, if your downtown store location is flooded, can you move inventory to your suburb location and let customers know they can shop there while damage is being cleaned up? If so, a process on how to move that inventory and how to contact customers should be outlined.

It basically boils down to IF this happens,
this is everything we need to DO and HOW we do it.

Nothing can be left to chance. No guessing should be involved.

Think about templates for emails, press releases, social media posts, and other media alerts. If a reporter calls from the local paper wanting information, you should have a document ready to send them with appropriate company wording.  

Test your plan!

If you said you could move your inventory to your second location, CAN you actually do it? How long would it take? Who would do it? How much would it cost? Run the numbers.

Test the phone numbers of key authorities to contact. Ensure the people at your vendors are still employed there.  

And revisit your plan annually. Things change. People change. Your business needs change.  

If you don’t have a disaster recovery plan, put together a team and begin building one. 
And if you do have one, review and update it.

Be prepared and get resources in place. Once you have all this preparation accomplished, you’ll have yet another piece of your overall business plan in place to ensure you can continue to run and grow your business.