The demands of a small business are such that long term or contingency planning are uncommon when compared to big businesses. However, it is critical for business owners to put some thought into contingency plans and to revise these plans periodically. We can never be prepared for every contingency, but considering the many foreseeable issues which could interfere with the business’ operation is not that difficult to give some attention to the “what ifs.” No matter where one lives, there is the potential of some sort of natural disaster. In our world, for example, hurricanes happen. We have to know how to make “the show go on” even if our office/home is threatened by a storm. Many years ago we committed some of these plans to paper and began providing this “disaster plan” to all employees and potentially to key vendors or service providers (the company’s attorney or CPA). This document is largely about hurricane preparedness but ventures into other areas as well. One of the most sobering parts is contingency planning for a dire emergency, the proverbial “what if one of us gets hit by a bus?” Our jury recruiter at the time said she cried reading this section in our disaster plan. But, somehow the employees must know what to do if something tragic were to happen – who to call, what steps to take. Some of the topics to address include communication plans before/during/after an emergency; what to do if medical transport is required; what to do if someone loses his/her ID while traveling (a good place to start is to have a photocopy on hand in the office which could be scanned in an emergency); etc.. And, as I need to do now myself, one must periodically update these plans to keep them current.
I am a planner, both a short range planner and a long range planner. I constantly think about the “what ifs?” in every situation. I spoke recently with someone who said she puts all unpleasant thoughts out of her mind. My response was “I have to think about the unpleasant things until I have resolved them.” (I also seem to be unable to forget what other people cannot remember, but that is another subject.) For example, because my spouse/business partner and I live and work in beautiful South Florida, we are subject to heavy rains, flooding, tropical storms, and hurricanes. Merely wishing these natural disasters wouldn’t happen isn’t going to help us deal with their aftermath. So, instead of burying our heads in the beach sand and not thinking about the bad things that might happen, thereby shutting down our business, destroying our home, etc. we have devised plans for handling these disasters not if, but when, they happen. Because of our long term planning, we have been able to respond quickly when the inevitable hurricane warning happens. In that hurricanes and other disasters never happen at a convenient time, one has to be ready to do whatever needs to be done in order to move forward, keeping in mind that our clients in areas of the country not affected by the disaster are not likely to give us a “free pass” just because our roof blew away!