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  • Writer's pictureShawna Bruce

Small Businesses: Planning is the Key to Recovery

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

I was watching the "wall of flame" surrounding the now evacuated community of High Level, Alberta this week, with a déjà vu of the devastating wildfires that impacted the communities of Slave Lake and Fort McMurray in recent years. The media have shared stories of the local Tim Horton's, hotel and gas stations remaining open to service the first responders who are bravely working to contain this fire before it hits the town. This reminded me of a quote I had filed away regarding small businesses by Ellen Thrasher - the Associate Administrator for the Department of Entrepreneurship at the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Small Business Administration.

"Small business is part of the heartbeat of the larger community. That heartbeat becomes thunderous when a community is faced with a crisis."

In the Emergency Management cycle, recovery is the phase where you begin to build back a community safer than it was before the disaster. Re-building can be a complicated and daunting task that also presents an opportunity to make a community an even better place to live and work. Small business plays a critical role in that recovery process. Without services and businesses in the community, people won't return to live there. Small businesses are the glue. But, if these businesses are unable to resume operations in 10 days, many won't survive. They often have a limited cash flow and may not have considered any steps towards how they would respond if their businesses operations were interrupted.

When thinking of Business Continuity Planning, we need to consider that a broken pipe causing a shop to flood, or a driver smashing through the front window of a store, can often be just as devastating as a fire caused by Mother Nature.  The response and recovery to both situations depends on the degree of foresight and preparedness put into Business Continuity Planning (BCP).

If you're a small business owner, let's consider the following steps for a moment:

  1. Analyze your Business: What is the purpose of your business? What services do you provide to clients? Do you need to be backing up your computer systems to protect critical data?

  2. Assess your Risks: What risk scenarios are possible for your business? Think outside the box and consider your location, the environment in which you operate, and be realistic. Bring your employees together to complete this exercise as each one will bring a different perspective to the table.

  3. Develop Strategies: Many will be easy and cost-effective. Consider keeping old equipment as a backup plan or partnering with other businesses to borrow necessary items or even shop space as needed. Do some research. For example, does your local Chamber of Commerce offer any resources for businesses in your community?

  4. Make a Plan: Get the right insurance by a trusted partner. Share your risk scenarios and make sure you’re covered for business interruption loss.  Use your networks and establish partnerships and reciprocal agreements with those in your community (or adjacent community) to keep your business up and running if an emergency impacts you. Consider what could be offered remotely or online in the early days of recovery.

  5. Exercise the Plan: Bring employees together and talk about how you would operate if faced with a crisis. As the business owner, your employees are counting on you to keep your business operating for their livelihood too. Make sure employees are prepared on the home front with their 72 Hour Kits and personal preparedness plans so that when they are needed, they can be there to support your business needs.

  6. Communicate to your Customers: Communicating throughout the recovery process is so important. Let your customers know what is happening, tell them what you’re doing to get up and running, and how you’ll be supporting them during this time. Remember that while you’re out of business – your competition may still be operating.  The biggest risk to your business is likely losing your customers. 

It doesn't matter how big your insurance payout is, it cannot help you retain your customers – only you can do this.

There are many great resources out there to leverage for developing your own BCP, some with templates that make the process easy to follow. Take a moment to review the links below. Make a plan today, so that you are prepared to face an emergency or disaster tomorrow.

You've realized your dream by starting your own business through blood, sweat, tears and likely a hefty financial commitment. Don't let your dream slip away by neglecting to consider the "What If's."

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