Can Your Business Survive a Disaster?
You can be forgiven for thinking that the worst thing that can happen to a business is the website going down.
Most businesses still deal in hard goods or need a physical location to deliver services. There are a lot worse things that can happen than the disappearance of a website.
What can happen?
First, here are four types of disasters you could face. Then we’ll look at whom you should call when needed.
The worst thing that can happen is death. Many businesses have inherent dangers, and we’re not just talking about adventure sports and wilderness tour operators. Restaurants can face allergic reactions and food poisoning. Hair salons and spas use chemicals. There are dangers.
But there are also unexpected risks. Not long ago, a child died in a freak accident at a rotating restaurant in Atlanta.
Client death is one thing. Bystander death is another. Even something as simple as a shrubbery near the exit to your parking lot can contribute to a pedestrian death.
In 2015, there were 2.9 million on-the-job injuries in the US.
Disruption and destruction
Tornadoes happen. Ice storms happen. Plumbing bursts and wires get crossed. Pandemics, earth quakes, war…the list is endless. What would you do if you were forced to shut your business down for a day, a month, or infinitely? Do you have a backup plan?
A client of mine lives in Houston. His business had to shut down for several days due to Hurricane Harvey.
Possibilities like these are unlikely, however, you still need to be prepared.
Libel and bad PR
For every communication, someone has a chance of becoming offended. Lawsuits can be taxing in terms of time, stress and money. You can’t control what your employees say to your customers, and you might not always think before you open your own mouth. People say the craziest things on the job. When your sales clerk launches a racist slur at a customer because of stress at home, guess who gets sued.
It’s not just the lawsuit that can hurt you. Those airport security officers might be in legal hot water, but it’s United Airlines that lost business from the rough handling of David Dao. Bad PR can destroy a business.
Who you gonna call?
There are several people you should call before setting up a business. And you should call them periodically to review your protection. The first two on this list are probably obvious.
Call a lawyer. In the event of any liability, whether it relates to death or injury, to destroyed inventory or a stressed employee, make sure you have the best legal protection in place. Generally, this means that you have done two things:
- Shown due diligence to be responsible and protect your customers, employees and bystanders from risk. This means that you have not been negligent.
- Written contracts that reduce your liability in the event that things beyond your control go wrong.
A lawyer can also put in place as a back-up plan.
Call an insurance agent. This is a no-brainer. You want your inventory and your premises protected. You want your employees protected, and yes, it is your business that they can sue to get that back pain treated. You might want liability insurance, as well. In fact, there are five types of insurance you might consider.
With the legal and financial protections in place to reduce the pain of catastrophe, who should you call to avoid catastrophe in the first place?
Call a health and safety expert. I did not even know these people existed until I helped rewrite an account by a health and safety officer helping to dismantle chemical weapons in Libya. These experts do exist, and they can point out obvious risks – obvious to them, but perhaps not to you or me. They can also suggest solutions.
Consulting a health and safety expert brings the twin benefits of reducing the risk of somebody getting hurt and reducing your liability if they do. At the very least, you are clearly not negligent, assuming you follow the expert’s advice.
At best, you’ll have an injury-free workplace and won’t have to be explaining to customers why people get hurt at your store or clinic.
Call a trainer. If you have staff who deal with the public, you might want to make sure that they have been trained in customer relations. In these days, when even a judge makes unbelievably sexist remarks in court and racism is standard at the checkout counter, you can’t be too careful.
Call an IT specialist. Ask for just one thing: redundancy. You want all data backed up frequently. You want several generations of data backed up so that you can go back a number of days, depending on how long a problem is happening before you notice.
Make sure they check your communications systems for redundancy. If your telephones go down or if your collaborative software goes down, will you still be able to function?
Yes, your website could go down. So can other technology.
Will your business be prepared?
Every business is different, and there might be several specific risks that your business could face. So, there might be a number of other specialists you should consult.
The bottom line is that your business needs to be protected from death and injury, including your own, and from disruption and destruction. Make sure to reduce the risk that catastrophes will happen, and reduce your costs and headaches if they do.