Will your business survive a catastrophe?

Thrive not just survive

Could your business survive a catastrophe? This is a tough question and one that has likely been on many people’s minds after the events of the last two years.

The recent death of a dear friend got me thinking deeply about this question. My business is in the early growth stage, has 12 team members, and as we’re scaling up, my commitment to these people and our customers is only going to grow. If disaster struck, what would happen to my growing start-up? What would happen to my team and the people we support? As I pondered these questions, I realised that it would be immensely helpful to come up with systems and structures that would make disaster recovery a straightforward matter of following set protocols.

When you are the driver of the business, the responsibility for developing a thoroughgoing disaster recovery strategy lies with you. Let’s take a look at the core elements your plan must include if your business is to make it through a catastrophe.

Your vision

A clearly articulated vision is a crucial component of a strong business plan. Where do you plan on taking this business? What is your five-year plan? As your understanding of the path ahead grows clearer through the development of your vision, so too will your understanding of the potential disasters that may stand in your way.

Systems and structures to follow in case of emergency

If you haven’t already done so, it’s essential to conduct a thorough risk assessment of your business. This will give you a clear idea of all the potential catastrophes that may arise, from cyber threats to natural disasters.

Once you have a clear idea of the disasters that may befall your business, it’s time to create a business continuity management plan that will allow you and/or your staff to leap immediately into action. If, for example, you were to sustain an injury on the way to work, the fallout will be far less damaging if your staff aren’t scrambling to figure out what to do in your absence. The same is true of all disasters – having a system in place and a structure to follow reduces the need for hasty decisions made in the heat of the moment.

Succession planning

Succession planning allows your business to run smoothly and avoid interruptions, even if key team members retire, resign, fall ill, or take extended leave. In addition to supporting the growth of your business, this strategy ensures your team members feel valued and are able to enjoy career progression.

Succession planning also saves any one team member (yourself included) from becoming a “single point of failure.” If your front-of-house manager needs maternity leave for example, you can focus on celebrating this milestone in their life, knowing that you have another team member prepared to take over the role.

Leadership and advisory

Aside from yourself, who understands the overarching mission and the daily needs of your business? Should something happen to prevent you from performing your duties, is there someone else who could step in and take the reins? Crucially, is this person invested in your business (personally and/or financially)?

When disaster strikes, you need strong leadership from someone who cares about the survival of your business. You and/or your team members will likely also need advice and mentorship through this difficult time. Setting up these relationships when you’re sailing through calm waters is the ideal strategy.

Thinking about potential disasters is an essential first step in being prepared for them. However, it can bring up some painful issues. If you find the process challenging, please know that you’re not alone. If you need support, you can start by contacting one of the many free mental health helplines in Australia.