In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many New Orleans companies discovered too late that a Business Continuity Plan ensures operations can continue in the event of a disaster. New Orleans commercial real estate firms were especially affected since their continued operation was vital to businesses getting back on their feet by securing new office and distribution space. Large companies have a detailed plan to protect the data on their computer servers but thousands of small firms can use the same template for more common catastrophes like losing a cell phone containing all your contacts, appointments and emails.
Here are the basics of any good Business Continuity Plan:
- Communication: As we discovered after Hurricane Katrina, the best way to take over a country is to wipe out communications. For small firms, loss of contact with employees and customers can be deadly but there is no need to be out of touch if you use the Internet to disseminate information on how people can get in touch with you. You have two target audiences in this situation: first, your employees and second, your customers. Your emergency plan should be spelled out in a link on the first page of your website, with email and phone contacts that are monitored remotely. Even if you lose your cell phone, there are ways to stay in business. Your first priority should be to follow up on voice messages, which can be retrieved remotely from any phone by establishing a remote message retrieval password from your cell phone carrier. Voice messages carry a high priority since they are most likely from existing contacts. Your second priority should be to follow up with emails to communicate with customers and employees. Emails can be checked from any computer by logging into your email carrier. FedEx has offices in every major city with computers you can use on site by the minute. Your email carrier will allow you to log into their server and retrieve your emails and reply, even allowing you to include attachments. Other third party websites such as mail2web.com also allow you to check emails remotely. You'll need to know your ID and password you initially used to establish your email account, which most people have long forgotten so now is a good time to store that information in a secure password site such as www.lastpass.com which allows you to recall your ID and password for any website from any location.
- Relocation: Once your communication is established, you can announce your new location, but employees should know ahead of time where to go in case of an emergency. You'll want to verify the situation of each employee and identify their needs to facilitate an employee response team to help. After employees stabilize their personal situation, they will want to start work again, especially if your industry is in high demand during a catastrophe such as commercial real estate where clients are scrambling to find new office space and distribution centers.
- Customers and Vendors: Emergencies are an opportunity to develop loyalty with customers because their needs may have changed. Companies that are organized and have a Business Continuity Plan in place can thrive during an emergency by providing customers a higher level of service which is long remembered.