Is Your Business Prepared For a Disaster?
Photo by e-strategyblog.com.
If you were formerly a cubicle dweller, it’s a good bet that someone else was responsible for making sure that the smoke alarms in your building worked, that all staff members knew CPR, and that the company had a business continuity plan in case of disaster. Now that you are on your own, disaster preparedness and all that it entails is yet another task that falls squarely on your shoulders—along with janitorial jobs, stocking jobs, mail room jobs, accounts receivable jobs, and all the other parts that make up your business. Being prepared for a disaster is not as hard as it sounds. Here are some tasks to get you started so that no matter what kind of disaster strikes, you’ll be ready.
Most likely this is in your home, although it may be in an outbuilding or a leased office space. Make sure that the location is secure by installing good locks on your doors and/or re-keying locks that others have previously had keys to. Any space you work in should have a smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, and a fire extinguisher on the premises. In case of a long term power outage, be sure to have a few emergency supplies such as bottled water and some easy-to-prepare food on hand as well as supplies such as gloves, a mask, a crow bar, an emergency blanket, etc. that can help you survive a disaster.
There are two disasters that befall freelancers on a regular basis when it comes to equipment. The first is losing files when you turn on your computer and see the blue screen of death. The solution? Make sure you back up your files at least weekly. Even better—make two back up copies and leave one off the premises in case a fire or other disaster destroys both your computer and your back-up files. The second problem is loss of power. Say you are working on a critical project with an even more critical deadline. The client on the other side of the country will not care that your power went out and you couldn’t work. Always have a secondary source of power for your computer. This could be a laptop which can run off of its battery, a battery system to prolong the power to your desktop after an outage, or even a generator that will power your entire home. Don’t forget that your modem may not work if you lose power so having a secondary way to reach the internet is also good disaster planning. You may do this through a dial up service (phone lines often work even when the power is out) or through your cell phone.
Who hasn’t had the experience of working late into the night on a really important project and when you go to print out your masterpiece for an early morning presentation you find that the printer has run out of ink. Yikes. This type of disaster can be avoided by always having backup supplies in storage. Paper, ink, stamps, basically all of the office supplies you use on a regular basis should be well stocked for times when you can’t get out to re-supply, when you use more supplies on a project than you had intended, or when cash flow is running a bit tight and you can’t afford to go out and buy 200 stamps for the mailing you need to do.
You can survive just about anything if you have enough money. Crashed computer? Buy another one. Unlivable house? Rent an apartment for a couple of months. Major client skips town? No problem. Actually, without an emergency fund, all of these incidents can cause HUGE problems for your business. Everyone should have an emergency fund of six months to one year’s worth of expenses in the bank. This way, you will have a soft financial cushion to land on should something terrible happen.
Speaking of terrible things happening, you need to insure the most important parts of your business. Make sure you have adequate life, health, home, business liability, long term disability, and auto insurance in order to protect not only the most important part of your business—you—but also to provide protection from the financial catastrophe that could result if you are in a terrible car accident, your home burns down, or you die and your family is counting on the income from your business to survive. For young, healthy people, insurance is usually quite inexpensive (excluding health insurance which is astronomical but still very important) however this topic often gets pushed to the side in favor of more pressing financial commitments.
Your business continuity plan
What happens if your office burns down, an earthquake demolishes your town, or the storm of the century hits your area? If you have a business continuity plan in place, the answer will be much simpler to ascertain. Do you have a way to continue your business no matter what kind of disaster strikes? A business continuity plan includes things such as where you would work if you can’t work in your current office, what equipment and supplies you would use if your current equipment and supplies are damaged or destroyed, and what you would do if your major supplier goes out of business or your major client cuts their need for your services in half or in its entirety.
Basic disaster planning isn’t just for big corporation. In fact, big corporations often have the financial wherewithal to simply set up shop somewhere else and keep producing. Freelancers, on the other hand, need to maximize their planning and preparedness in order to meet, survive, and hopefully flourish no matter what emergency life throws at them.