5 lessons to help you prepare for the worst

I’m one of the lucky ones. I live in Toronto, Canada, and although we were given advance warning of Hurricane Sandy, she never showed us her full force. The world has seen many images of her wrath: people being rescued from their homes due to flooding, fires that reduced homes to piles of ash, cars crushed by trees, and storefronts peeled back with the contents scattered across the road.

These images make us understand how vulnerable we all are to Mother Nature and her fury. They show us how we can lose everything in a matter of seconds.

The same is true for your business.

I often ask my clients this question: “How long would it take you to recover your business if your office suddenly disappeared?” And by office I mean computer equipment, external hard drives, and all those pieces of paper that are in files and piles.

The answer is written all over their faces and easy to read. It clearly says “Oh snap!”

Consider Sandy your wake-up call. Here are five scenarios and lessons to consider to help you prepare for a crisis.

Client Care

Consider this: You live in New York City but you have clients all over the world. While you’re in the middle of a hurricane, they’re enjoying a bright, clear, beautiful day. They have no idea what you (and your business) are going through.

Lesson: Communicate in advance. Send out an email to your clients. Advise them of the impending situation and assure them their projects/files etc. are safe. Inform them that you may not be able to respond to their emails but if possible you will keep them updated. If you are not able to do this in advance, send out an email as soon as you can … or assign it to your virtual assistant who may not live in an area being affected by the crisis.

Business Administration

Consider this: You’re working on a client project that is 99% complete. All the files are on your computer. You’ve spent countless hours crafting this project and it has paid off … it’s your best work. You knew the hurricane was on its way, so you made sure you backed it up to your external hard drive.

Lesson: Back up to the cloud. This means it’s on a server (or servers) outside of your geographic location. Hard drives can get corrupted, stolen, or wrecked by fire or water. The same goes for DVDs or CDs.

Team

Consider this: You have a team that helps you with your business. This is a group of sub-contractors and may include a virtual assistant, graphic designer, IT geek, writer, etc. They are mostly scattered across the globe, but some could live in your city, which is on the hurricane path.

Lesson: Show your team you care. If they live elsewhere, put them to work, so you can focus on your personal safety and helping out family and friends. Keep your team apprised of the situation (if you can) or let them know you’ll be out of contact for a specific amount of time.

Marketing

Consider this: You’re a savvy entrepreneur. You know your marketing messages convey your promise to your customers. You’ve gone to great lengths to ensure your brand reflects the essence of your business.

Lesson: Refine your marketing messages to reflect your care and concern for those around you. Marketing isn’t about making a sale, it’s about showing who you are. If you believe in giving back, show your support by donating to the Red Cross. If customer care is number one, thank your clients for their support and patience during the crisis. After the storm passes and life starts to return to normal, return your focus to getting your message out.

Accounting

Consider this: Your receipts are all in a shoe box in your office. You write your invoices by hand and they’re in a file folder on your desk. You never considered the impact of fire and water … that is until Sandy came knocking on your door.

Lesson: Invest in a scanner and digitize your financial documents. Then back up those digital files to the cloud.

Has your business ever been affected by a crisis? How did you handle it? What were your lessons learned? Share your comments below and join the conversation.

Comments

  1. Excellent information, Valeri. Living in Los Angeles (aka earthquake country) means earthquake kits at the office, home, and both vehicles. Although my business hasn’t been hit by a disaster that is mother nature related, I did experience a health crisis that made me grateful for having the proper insurance, including disability, in place.

    • Hi Jackie. Nice to see you here! Disasters come in many forms. What they all have in common is the shock value. Being prepared helps us absorb the panic involved and keeps us in control and level headed so we can make quick and smart decisions. Thanks for you comment. I’m interested to know what goes into an earthquake kit.

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