How to Survive a Business Disaster

Business Disasters come in all shapes and sizes, some of them are avoidable and others are not.

This guide should help you to avoid some of the disasters and to survive the larger ones.

What is a business disaster?

According to The BusinessDictionary.com a business disaster is:


"calamitous, distressing, or ruinous effects of a disastrous event (such as drought, flood, fire, hurricane, war) of such scale that they disrupt (or threaten to disrupt) critical functions of an organization, society or system, for a period long enough to significantly harm it or cause its failure. It is the consequences of a disastrous event and the inability of its victims to cope with them that constitute a disaster, not the event itself."

From this you can see it is the failure to prepare for the event that means it is a disaster rather than the event itself.

So How do you prepare for a disaster?

Firstly think of all the factors that could affect your business' ability to run, this could be a power outage leading to corrupt data or a natural disaster leading to accessibility problems for the office.

How would these problems affect your business? Could you still run if they were to happen? The answers to these questions will determine the steps you take in order to prevent disasters taking your business away from you.

1. Plan for anticipated disasters

After you have noted down all the disasters you can think of, write contingency plans for if they were to happen. What would you do? How would you do it? When would you do it? Remember, it's no good trying to back up data from a corrupt hard drive, so some of these things will have to be done before the disaster takes place.

2. Raise the alarm

If you work for someone else, let them know that a disaster is imminent. If you run your own business (whether self employed or a director), then keep an eye out and be aware of anything that's happening around you in the business. If you have employees, listen to them if they try and raise a concern with you. Just be aware of everything at all times.

3. Assess the damage after the event

When you arrive at your place of business, see what has happened. Assess any losses that may have occurred. See if your business can still run with what has survived from the disaster. If you had a power failure and have lost all the business' data, were back ups made in time? Is the equipment still functioning? Are the back ups intact? If there's been a natural disaster, can you still access the office? If so, is any of the equipment or furniture salvageable? Can you stay in that office or will you have to move? Will it be a permanent or temporary move?

These are just some of the things you will have to consider if your business is survive. Also every business is different, these are just examples.

4. Notify any absent staff

Any staff that were present at the time will know what's happened and what is being done about it, however absentees will not know this. Calls should be made and information given to staff to bring them up to speed. Remember a business is a team effort and the team should always be on the same page.

5. Keep your business going

What do you need to do to get your business back up and running? You may need to contact your suppliers and reduce / increase the amount of stock needed. You may also need to contact your insurance in order to start a claim (if necessary). Also you should look at contacting your customers and let them know of any changes to the way that the business is now trading, e.g. a change of address, whether you're open as usual or taking a few months out from trading in order to get the business back up to it's peak.

6. Rebuild the essentials

You may find that there are things missing from your business that you need to have in order for it to run in the correct way. These could be things such as computer files or equipment, an office space or meeting notes.

Ask yourself, do I need these right now? If the answer is yes then you'll need to find copies of the files, order new equipment, arrange alternative office space and ask clients for any copies of meeting notes they may have. You may not be able to get everything back right away but you should be able to retrieve most of the information you need and you should be able to arrange for additional equipment through your insurer.

It's also worth remembering that if any copies of documents (such as bank statements or invoices) were destroyed or damaged, you will need to try and get copies of these, and may need to inform HMRC too.

7. Review the contingency plans

It's all well and good having contingency plans but you'll never know if they work until a situation happens. So once you have been through something like this go back over your plans with the mindset of "Did this work?", "Could I have done anything differently in order to be back up and running faster?" Go over your plans and amend them with the new information that you have.

It can also be useful to do a dummy run of your plans - regular fire drills, simulating power loss, checking and testing back ups and more.

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