It’s been a year like no other. The sudden impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in March forced every business owner — ready or not — to execute his or her disaster response plan.
So, how did yours do? Although it may still be a little early to do a complete assessment of what went right and wrong during the crisis, you can take a quick look back right now while the experience is still fresh in your mind.
When devising a disaster response plan, brainstorm as many scenarios as possible that could affect your company. What weather-related, environmental and socio-political threats do you face? Obviously, you can now add “pandemic” to the list.
The operative word, however, is “your.” Every company faces distinctive threats related to its industry, size, location(s), and products or services. Identify these as specifically as possible, based on what you’ve learned.
There are some constants for nearly every plan. Seek out alternative suppliers who could fill in for your current ones if necessary. Fortify your IT assets and functionality with enhanced recovery and security capabilities.
Another critical factor during and after a crisis is communication, both internal and external. Review whether and how your business was able to communicate in the initial months of the pandemic.
You and most of your management team probably needed to concentrate on maintaining or restoring operations. Who communicated with employees and other stakeholders to keep them abreast of your response and recovery progress? Typically, these parties include:
- Staff members and their families,
- Banks and other financial stakeholders, and
- Local authorities, first responders and community leaders (as appropriate).
Look into the communication channels that were used — such as voicemail, text messaging, email, website postings and social media. Which were most and least effective? Would some type of new technology enable your business to communicate better?
Revisit and update
If the events of this past spring illustrate anything, it’s that companies can’t create a disaster response plan and toss it on a shelf. Revisit the plan at least annually, looking for adjustments and new risk factors.
You’ll also want to keep the plan clear in the minds of your employees. Be sure that everyone — including new hires — knows exactly what to do by spelling out the communication channels, contacts and procedures you’ll use in the event of a disaster. Everyone should sign a written confirmation that they’ve read the plan’s details, either when hired or when the plan is substantially updated.
In addition, go over disaster response measures during company meetings once or twice a year. You might even want to hold live drills to give staff members a chance to practice their roles and responsibilities.
Heed the lessons
For years, advisors urged business owners to prepare for disasters or else. This year we got the “or else.” Despite the hardships and continuing challenges, however, the lessons being learned are invaluable. Please contact us to discuss ways to manage costs and maintain profitability during these difficult times.