What are the most common business disasters?

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The most common business disasters are data loss according to a NY Times story by Jennifer Walzer.  When disaster strikes, chances are it will not be a natural disaster that affects everyone in your city. We watched the recent disaster in Japan unfold on the news and knew that the lives and lively-hoods of the people effected were changed forever.  Earthquakes, Tsunami, and Fires are indeed a terrifying thought.  Large scale events certainly have a devastating affect on communities when they strike. Events like these are difficult and sometimes impossible to prepare for. 

What about smaller events that effect just your business or the block where your business is located?  What would you do if you walked into your office one day and your phone system did not work or there was a water line break in your office? What if you had to evacuate because of a gas leak in the area? These events are easy to plan for, but they can have a big impact on your business if you are not prepared. These type of disasters could lose your company money just as a fire would but insurance doesn’t always cover these types of loses.  The underlying question is, how do you plan for the unexpected?

Small disasters like the ones mentioned cost businesses money everyday and most could be avoided by careful planning. Data loss alone costs businesses billions of dollars every year. Almost every month we get a call from a frantic client saying they can’t answer their phones because the phone system is down, the power is out,  they have a water leak or worst yet their air conditioner is out and it is 110 degrees outside. No matter what the problem is, our answer is “We can help!”. Last winter when one of our largest clients called us one morning to inform us that 200 employees were sent home because the pipes had frozen during the night and they had no plumbing we said “Don’t worry we will take your calls”.  These businesses were able to take care of their customers while they resolved the problem. Most callers will be sympathetic to your situation if they are informed of the problem and their needs are noted and responded to when things are running smoothly again. If no one is answering the phone, your customers have no way to know why you are not responding to their needs.

There are plenty of companies and guides that can help with the big events but they can be costly. Take the time to have a plan for the little disasters. An answering service can help with your phones when your receptionist can’t. Its not always practical for small businesses to have a large scale disaster plan. Depending on the nature of the business, simple solutions can go a long way when there is a problem. Make a list of the more common disasters and make a plan for all of them. Having an extra computer at home so you can backup your data is a good idea. Building relationships with vendors and other businesses in the community and pooling your resources can be helpful.  Perhaps you can create a mutual agreement with another company where each owner can use space in the others facility during an emergency. You will be glad you have a plan for the more common disasters.

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