Featuring Bob Boyd, President and CEO of Agility Recovery Solutions.
You never think it can happen to you. Whether the disaster is a hurricane, flood, tornado, or raging fire, the unthinkable can happen. Do you have a plan? Do you have a historical perspective of the types of disasters that have happened where your business is located?
This podcast is part one of a two-part series (Part 2 is available here) and covers five of the top ten steps you should take in developing your disaster preparedness plan. For example, understanding what business functions are critical for daily operation.
Ron Johnson: You never think it can happen to you. But during the past decade, we’ve seen major hurricanes bypass Florida and move up the Eastern seaboard leaving behind devastated businesses and communities. Whether the disaster is a hurricane, flood, tornado, or raging wildfire, the unthinkable can happen. The very nature of disasters requires planning for the unthinkable. Do you have a plan? What will it take to survive and rebuild your business after a disaster?
Hello, I’m Ron Johnson with the U.S. Small Business Administration, your small business resource. With us today is Bob Boyd, president and CEO of Agility Recovery Solutions. Today, we begin part one of our two-part series on how to develop your business disaster preparedness plan. Welcome, Bob.
Bob Boyd: Thanks, Ron. I really appreciate the opportunity to be with you here and to continue to work with the SBA as we help prepare small businesses for disaster carrying business continuity.
Ron Johnson: Tell us a little bit about Agility and your partnership with the SBA.
Bob Boyd: Sure. We’ve been working with the SBA for almost two years now to really help promote business preparedness planning for businesses of all sizes. For example, we recently had a webinar. We do a monthly webinar every month with the SBA. We recently had a webinar on social media strategies for business disaster recovery. All of the webinars that we prepare for the SBA are archived. You can go to preparemybusiness.org and listen to that webinar or any of the other webinars that we’ve done in conjunction with the SBA.
Ron Johnson: What can a business owner do today to better prepare themselves?
Bob Boyd: That’s a great question. We’ve really created a series of very basic steps that any business can go though. The first step that we’d recommend to any business that’s thinking about preparedness is to assess your risks both internally and externally. What you can do is develop a historical perspective of the things that have happened to where your business is located. You can go to fema.gov and find resources for what have historically occurred there. What kind of emergencies that have happened in the past? Look at the buildings that you operate in. What are physical risks that exist in there? There are different preparations that you can take whether you are in a 50-storey high-rise building versus if you’re the sole tenant of a single location business. Thinking through those things really helps your plan.
The next we would recommend is for businesses to assess their business functions and figure out which are critical for daily operations. Which staff, materials, functions, procedures, equipment are really necessary to run your organization in a disaster. Importantly, in what order do you need to bring those functions back up if an interruption was to strike you. Prioritize them. Figure out how you are going to staff them and get the resources that you need. Do it today before there’s a disaster, and you’ll be happy if you have any kind of interruption.
The next thing we talked with our members or prospects is to talk about identifying your vendors, shippers, and suppliers, all the supply side of your business and thinking through what would happen if they need those folks experience interruptions. So, ask your vendors. Do they have recovery plans and place? Develop relationships with alternative providers. Set up an account with them. Maybe you can go so far as to ordering services or goods from them so that you have that relationship. If anything happened to your primary provider, you’d have a relationship that you could fall back into. Then lastly, along that line is creating a contact list for all of your key business providers or service vendors or what not so that you make you sure that you know how you could contact those folks in a disaster. That list should be kept in your emergency kit that we’ll talk about.
The next thing we would really recommend and I suspect most businesses are doing these days, backing up your data. Make sure that you’ve got all of your data backed up and all of those critical files and any information is stored. Make sure it is stored safely. It’s not sitting out. If it’s in a fireproof safe, the fireproof safe is closed or think about redundancies to those things. There’s a lot of advancement that’s made in terms of backing up data that you could take advantage of.
Then the last part that we’d recommend is really to create a crisis communication plan. Make sure that you thought through multiple ways that you can communicate with your customers, your employees, your vendors, your community. Have a phone tree. Make sure that you’ve got alternative contact numbers for them. Maybe go so far as creating a password protected Web page that you could direct your employees or your customers to go to. Think through an alert notification system so that you could send out text messages or emails alternative to your primary systems. Begin to use social media, so thinking about using Facebook or twitter or Google Groups or those types services as a way to help you communicate information to your stakeholders in a crisis is really, really important. It’s one of these things that I think all of us could improve on.
Ron Johnson: Well, Bob, this ends part one of our two-part series on Business Disaster Preparedness. Can you share a little of what we’ll learn in part two?
Bob Boyd: Sure. In part two, well, we’re going to talk about the importance of testing, how to create emergency management plan, and what should be in your emergency supply kit.
Ron Johnson: Well, thanks, Bob. We look forward to part two. I also understand you have a series of webinars scheduled as well.
Bob Boyd: Sure. September is actually National Preparedness Month, so we’ve worked very diligently in conjunction with the folks of the SBA and FEMA and the Red Cross and others to create a series of webinars focusing on National Preparedness Month. Every Wednesday of the month, we’ve conducted a webinar on a variety of topics. Again, you can go to preparemybusiness.org or agilityrecovery.com/npm and be able to either register for those webinars or view any or listen to any of the archived webinars.
Ron Johnson: The SBA has also partnered with the American Red Cross to increase awareness in the business community about the Red Cross ready rating program. It’s a free self-paced Web-based membership program that helps a business measure its ability that deal with emergencies and give customized feedback on how to improve those efforts. You can go to www.readyrating.org.
Our thanks to Bob Boyd, president and CEO of the Agility Recovery Solutions. Taking steps to protect your employees, your hard-earned investment, your business, and your peace of mind may seem challenging at first. But the long-term benefit of being prepared is immeasurable. Having a business continuity plan will only improve your chances of staying in the game. Now, for more information on Agility’s Prepare My Business, go to www.preparemybusiness.org.
To learn more about what SBA has to offer in disaster assistance, go to www.sba.gov/disaster. Until next time, this is Ron Johnson with the U.S. Small Business Administration, your small business resource.
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