I recently took a family vacation with an anticipated return date of a Saturday. The Saturday turned into Sunday (the initial flight was delayed, then canceled, then rescheduled). We managed to get the last seats on the last plane out of there before they stopped all flights to our final destination (an epic snowstorm was rolling in). We could’ve been stuck there for an additional 4 or 5 days.
We tend to take it for granted that every day will go fairly smoothly. The inevitable is bound to occur, an illness, a personal crisis, or a family emergency. Do you have systems in place so that your staff can function without you for an extended period of time? We aren’t discussing succession planning that’s a topic for another time. The purpose of this article is to help you to create a plan for a short-term emergency where you may need to be away from the office for a few weeks to a few months at a time
Where to Begin
Handle the short-term needs of your crisis. A business can typically close for a few days without incurring huge losses but beyond that you need a plan. Begin by assessing the critical needs of your business. One key person will need to be authorized to act on your behalf. Break down your business into simple components (income and expense).
You need money to stay in business. Plan your marketing weeks in advance. The plan should include the ad to be run and the budget. One key person should understand the plan and how to implement the plan. If you work with a marketing company trust them enough to implement the plan in an emergency.
Who Will Generate Revenue?
In most small business a very small number of people actually generate the revenue, the rest are support staff. In a pinch, who will take their place? Temporary agencies can supply professionals on a per diem basis. Keep a list handy for your key person and include a list of necessary credentials or experience required. Alternatively discuss contingency plans with a few of your trusted competitors. We all have them, associates in the same boat as you, the primary revenue generator in a relatively small business.
The bills will need to be paid.
You have an accountant. Develop a Plan B that involves hiring your accountant on a temporary emergency basis to assume the role of bookkeeper. I would suggest not utilizing the same individual to oversee both the “income” role and the “expense” role. Providing a system of checks and balances is always a good idea, but more so when you’re absent both physically and emotionally from your business.
Problems & Communication
Problems will occur on a daily basis, disgruntled customers, broken equipment, employee issues just to name a few. Entrust your key employee to communication information to you. Develop a vehicle to relay information. Multiple systems should be utilized and tested in advance utilizing voice, text, and email. If you plan to leave the country, make sure to take advantage of the multitude of apps that will allow you to keep in touch with your staff for little or next to nothing (check out Viber for an example of one app). Your key person should provide a daily update to keep you in the loop. Critical information can be relayed on an as needed basis.
Remember, this is meant to be a stopgap and allow business to continue with a minimal amount of downtime and loss of revenue. You may never need to implement an emergency plan, but if the time comes when you do you’ll be glad you took the time to prepare now.