Dealing With Contingencies
I relish calamity. While I am driving to get to an appointment, I’m thinking about what happens if the light pole falls across the street, the load on the truck up ahead falls off or lava flows up from the manhole. Too active a fantasy life? Perhaps. Morbid personality? Maybe. Whatever you want to call it, it has come in handy for me.
This fascination with doom is born from and has helped me in my careers. In the Navy, we trained on what to do when pretty much anything broke. When we got that right, we trained on what to do when two things broke at the same time. By the time we got done, we knew what we would do if just about everything broke. Panic was not one of our options.
In business, we call the planning for nasty events Business Continuity Management. This is preparing for any condition that prevents you from performing your critical business functions in an acceptable period of time. If you are a business owner or manager, one of your primary tasks is plan for and be ready to handle these disasters.
Here in North Texas, we are well aware of the trouble that weather can cause. Tornadoes, flooding, and wildfires have all made headlines. A couple of years ago, because of a wind storm, my neighborhood lost power for a week. What would your business do if that happened? How would you run your equipment, computers, and air conditioning?
In my firm, we’ve planned for a wide range of problems. Some of my favorites:
Fire. Your building is a smoldering ember. How will you handle the loss of computers, data, records, and equipment? Where and how will your employees work? How will your customers be able to do business with you?
Loss of Power. This isn’t so bad, unless it lasts a while. Can you handle a loss for a whole day? A week?
Loss of the Internet. For some of you this would be a blessing. For others it would be a nightmare. Do you have redundant lines coming into the office? Or will you move to a hotel or Starbucks in the interim. Even worse, what would your business do if the entire Internet, not just your connection to it, went away for a few days?
Pandemic Flu. A killer influenza virus is crossing the country. Hospitals corridors are lined with the infirm. People are afraid to be in a public area. Customers stop shopping and employees stop coming to work. What do you do?
The answers to each of these scenarios depend on the specifics of your business. When it comes to continuity management, one size does not fit all. But failing to think about these possibilities and having plans to deal with them is inviting a problem to become a disaster. To not train your employees or test your plans is inviting the disaster to destroy your business.
If I’ve convinced you to get started on your own continuity plan, one place to start is by surfing to www.FEMA.gov. Yes, those are the folks who had some problems in New Orleans, but their website has a lot of information in the Business section. If you do nothing else, download their Emergency Management Guide for Business & Industry. It will help you think through the issues your plan should address.
Gary Silverman, CFP® is the owner of Personal Money Planning, a financial planning and investment management firm located in Wichita Falls. You may e-mail him at Gary@PersonalMoneyPlanning.com. This article was published in the Wichita Falls Times Record News for the October, 2008 edition of Biz to Biz.