By Ted Devine, Insureon
September is Disaster Preparedness Month. Like Spring Cleaning, this month provides an external reminder to take care of disaster planning – something that’s easy enough to push off to tomorrow when you’ve got the more immediate concerns of running a business to tend to.
As someone in the insurance industry, I’m thinking about worst-case scenarios pretty much all the time – after all, my company exists to help small businesses survive those worst-case scenarios. And while having business insurance is an important part of making it through a disaster, real preparedness goes beyond carrying the right policies.
Why? Because there are some disasters (like losing a key employee to another firm) that insurance won’t cover. And there are others (like a massive flood) that require you to have an emergency plan in addition to an excellent insurance policy.
The website Ready.gov/business celebrates Disaster Preparedness Month by offering tips on how to create a plan to help your business survive a variety of large-scale disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, terrorist attacks), but for most small businesses, it’s equally important to plan for the smaller, more personal disasters that could be equally devastating to revenue. Here’s a guide to doing that.
Focus on the Disasters Specific to Your Business
A lot of business owners I talk to feel guilty about planning for a natural disaster they think is unlikely to happen – wouldn’t their time be better spent growing the business? In reality, though, bolstering your business against disaster can make it stronger and more likely to grow in the long term.
In addition to figuring out how you’d survive an earthquake or tornado (or whatever is most likely to affect your business), consider how you’d handle the following:
- A data breach
- A fire
- Theft of your equipment
- The loss of a key employee
- The loss of your biggest client
The last one is a major concern for some businesses. If you get 50 percent or more of your revenue from a single client, you’re in a precarious position.
But even losing a great employee (say, to a higher-paying corporate gig) could leave you scrambling to meet deadlines with all your clients.
And what about a data breach? Studies show that small businesses are prime targets for hackers. And recovering from a data breach is an expensive and time-consuming process that can turn off customers and damage your reputation.
Making a Disaster Plan that Actually Works
Once you’ve identified the big-picture and small-picture risks that threaten your business, follow the Ready.gov guidelines for creating a disaster preparedness plan. Specifically:
Set aside time on multiple days to make a plan. It’s normal to feel like you don’t have time to create a comprehensive disaster plan, but that’s not a good reason to skip planning. Instead, set aside a little time over the next few weeks to tackle various aspects of planning. By October, you’ll be ready to go.
Identify small, concrete steps to complete. “Get more clients” is too vague. Instead, set yourself goals of how many potential clients you’ll call each week or how you’ll attract more customers to your storefront.
Set goals for the short and long term. Make sure you establish goals that you can measure so you can determine how close you are to being truly disaster-ready. It’s okay if you can’t get everything done in a week, but it’s not okay to put important steps off so long they never get done.
Once you’ve got a plan, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing your business can survive any of the disasters most likely to hit. And when next September rolls around, updating your plans to accommodate any changes in your business should be a fairly simple task.
Ted Devine is the CEO of insureon, the nation’s leading online provider of small business insurance. By offering business insurance products for small businesses in hundreds of industries alongside educational materials about managing risk, insureon helps entrepreneurs, sole proprietors, contractors, freelancers, and other small-business owners prevent and survive disasters of all kinds.