You need to create a business continuity plan. When most people hear about business continuity and disaster preparation they start to think about things like flooding, earthquakes, wildfires, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria, but it's not always as catastrophic or as crazy as that. Sometimes it could be that you, the business owner, got sick. Maybe you got hit by a bus, you can't actually make it in. Sometimes you're the weakest part of your business and it's not this outside event, this crazy outside event that causes issues with your business continuity. These are some different things to think about as we create this plan.
I was at a conference many years ago and this was a conference for small business owners, talking about selling and growing their businesses and the speaker, he stood up there and he asks, "How many of you guys are business owners?" and “how many of them know how to make money on shopify?”.
I'd say 99% of the people, they all raised their hands, right, and he goes, "Okay, excellent, you're all business owners. How many of you can take a month off, willing or unwilling, how many of you can take a month off, not answer your phone, not answer your email, and walk back into work and everything is fine, there's been no issues and you still have a business?" Three people raised their hands, and this wasn't a small conference, this was hundreds of people that were here. And he nods to the three people and he points to everybody else and he says, "You are not business owners. You are employees of business that you just happen to own." And that really stuck with me, I’ve held onto that for a long time and been thinking about that for years. Small business owners have a real problem sometimes with them being the only person that can actually run their business. And when we think about this, it's not always the floods and the fires and the earthquakes that really cause the problem, it's the fact that the business owner wasn't there, couldn't get there, wasn't able to accomplish what they need to think about, what they need to accomplish to grow their business. So consider this as we move forward; are you a business owner or are you an employee of a business that you just happen to own?
Now, keep in mind, I'm not talking about start-ups when we're having this conversation, this was a room full of established businesses. If you're starting a business and you honestly think that you're starting a business so that you don't have to work as hard or you won't have to work as much, you are in for a shock and I've got a big surprise waiting for you. So before you grab all of the pitchforks and the torches, this is established businesses, not start-ups. You have to dedicate a lot of time and you have to sacrifice a lot to start a company, so you absolutely will be the person that's doing all of the work and all of the energy up front if you're just starting. If you're an established business this is time for you to start thinking about continuity; how can this business survive if you become the problem?
Step 1: SWOT analysis
It stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. We're going to focus on strengths and threats, because this is what's really going to impact your business and how you create this plan. The strengths of your business become really, really important because how you've built this company, how you built your technology, how you built your people, how you built your processes will all influence what you need to do in order to work through and work past potential threats.
Step 2: Rank your potential threats and then identify a plan for each one of them
A flood is going to have a very different impact on your business than a long-term loss of power, which will also have a very different impact on your business than you or key staff or key personnel being sick and out of the office for a week, two weeks, three weeks at a time. So each one of these scenarios is going to need an individualized plan identifying for any potential opportunities or any potential weaknesses that may come through. So, start by identifying each one and a great tool for this is to take a page out of the post office book. Create a plan for a zombie apocalypse. It seems really ridiculous, it seems crazy and it probably is, right? But sit down in a room, order some pizza and create a business continuity preparedness plan for the zombie apocalypse (aliexpress product analysis). You'll have a lot of fun, there's a lot of laughs, lot of giggles about it and what you'll find is that you've already started to identify different tools or different things that you're going to need to do that you can then port over into all these other plans. It's going to save you time and it's going to make you have a lot of fun.
Step 3: Identify your key players
It can't always be you doing everything. Maybe you're the problem, maybe you're the one who’s out sick or maybe you're the one who got trapped in travel overseas and you can't get back for a couple of days or a week or something like that. So identify your key players and give them specific roles and specific tasks to accomplish. One, by doing this, you create buy-in from your team, and two, you get to spread things around so that you don’t have as many weaknesses bottlenecking with one person. This way they own what they need to own, everybody understands what their role is and you can move forward.
Step 4: Prepare your technology
Now you may have a small business to where everything that you do is out of a certain location, that's your office, that’s your warehouse, your garage, something like that, and there may be some technological risks there, right? That's where your tools are located; you can't really have technology that's going to fix or accomplish problems related to that. What you can do, however, is ensure that you can access all of your records, you can access your vendor information, you can access your financial information, your history, your books, things like that. You can also set up tools so that you can get your phone forwarded, maybe to your cell phone or something like that if you can't get into the office and answer phones or make calls. So utilizing tools like a customer relationship manager to track all of your sales and your customers, tracking all of your vendors and their information in case you need to reach out to them, forwarding your phone, utilizing email, utilizing cloud services like Google Drive and Google Docs to keep your records, all of these are different pieces of technology that you need to consider to ensure that when you need to access something, you can. If you can't get physically where you need to go, you need to make sure that you can access what you need to from your home.
Step 5: Test your plan
This can actually be a lot of fun. So, the same thing that you did for the zombie preparedness, order some pizza, gather everybody together and actually run through this is a mock scenario. Everybody's got their thing that they need to do, everybody's got their responsibilities, but you're never going to understand if this is actually functional or if it will actually work, until you get everybody in a room, doing what they need to do. That way, not only are they prepared, they've identified, "Hey, I also have to talk to Bob about this before I can call Julie about this". They understand where they need to go, who they need to talk to, what they need to do in order to achieve their goals. If everyone's on the same page and everyone's working towards the same goal, that way you can be assured that you will survive a catastrophic event if it hits you.