A Guide to Disaster Planning for Your Business
As I sit here stuck in a hotel room in North Carolina while it snows for the second day in a row, I realized it was time once again for my annual guide to disaster planning for your business.
We had plenty of warning here in the Carolinas, but despite that, things are still pretty bad here, and officials are telling folks to stay off the roads.
Is your business ready for a natural disaster or severe weather? Here are some tips that I've published over the years based on firsthand experience. (I live in Florida, so I've seen a few hurricanes, floods, tornados and other severe weather.)
If you think you're on top of disaster preparation for your business, I suggest you compare your disaster plan against this one to make sure you didn't miss anything (and if I missed anything on this list, please let me know by commenting below).
1. If you don't have a business disaster plan, write one now. Publish it for all of your employees. Add it to your employee handbook, and then publish frequent updates as personnel and other business conditions change.
2. Get management and heads of major departments involved. Make them stakeholders. Designate someone in your company as chief disaster planning officer.
3. Publish a list of all emergency contact numbers for your key personnel and vendors. Include home and cell phone numbers, and email addresses as alternative means of contact if main communication channels go down. And don't forget IM, SMS and Skype, even FaceTime addresses, as alternative means to communicate during a disaster.
4. Back up your computers and computer systems regularly. Then back up your backups, and keep them offsite. Personally, I have four backup drives and a cloud. Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud are all great places for storage. Remember, there are two kinds of computer users: those who have lost data and those who will lose it. I fall into the first category. Remember, backup drives can fail. I've lost three backup drives over the last few years, so be careful.
5. Work with your call center to make sure it can operate if disaster strikes. If you use an external call center, inquire about its disaster plan.
6. If your call center is onsite, consider hiring a backup call-center staff to field calls in case of emergency (this one saved my client's bacon a few years ago).
7. If you host your own website, have a plan in place if the lights go out. Find out what your ISP does if it loses its electricity.
8. If your business is in a disaster-prone area, buy a generator.
9. If your business isn't in a disaster-prone area, contact any vendors that are. Disasters, either natural or man-made, can interrupt your workflow with printers, the post office and all other vendors.
10. Don't direct mail into disaster-impacted areas because recipients won't respond, and many times they won't get your mail until the disaster or weather event is over.
11. Consider backing off on some of your online marketing, especially if geo-targeted to areas affected.
12. If you've already mailed and a disaster occurs, adjust your projections downward.
Bottom line for all this, remember my motto (or is it the Boy Scout motto?): Always be prepared!
Do you have a disaster plan? Feel free to add to this list by posting a comment below …
Jim Gilbert has had a storied career in direct and digital marketing resulting in a burning desire to tell stories that educate, inform, and inspire marketers to new heights of success.
After years of marketing consulting, Jim decided it was time to “put his money where his mouth was" and build his own e-commerce company, Premo Natural Products, with its flagship product, Premo Guard Bed Bug & Mite Sprays. Premo in its second year is poised to eclipse 100 percent growth.
Jim has been writing for Target Marketing Group since 2006, first on the pages of Catalog Success Magazine, then as the first blogger for its online division. Jim continues to write for Total Retail.
Along the way, Jim has led the Florida Direct Marketing Association as their Marketing Chair and then three-term President, been an Adjunct Professor of Direct and Digital marketing for Miami International University, and created a lecture series, “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing,” which he has presented across the country at conferences and universities.