March 2003

Planning for the worst | Focus

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Planning for the worst

by Ambika Puniani Bailey
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You probably hate to imagine a disaster crippling your company, but events can occur that significantly may impede your company's survival. And now that most people are hypersensitive to potential threats, the adage "better safe than sorry" seems much less trite.

According to Inc. magazine, small-business owners would be well-advised to develop disaster-response plans to protect their businesses in times of turmoil. The magazine interviewed Todd Gordon, president and general manager of Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM's Business Continuity and Recovery Services Group, and he supplied tips to help small-business owners safeguard their companies.

Gordon says many small-business owners don't have plans to address how a company president's death, natural disasters and delayed shipments, for example, can affect a company. To develop an effective disaster-response plan, Gordon says you should do the following:

  1. Form a team. Gordon suggests forming a team that will develop a plan. Team members should come from all parts of the organization and be willing to commit significant time to formulating the plan. Gordon suggests an effective plan will take at least six months to develop.

  2. Maintain a company roster. Although some crews may have telephone trees established to warn workers of a cancelled workday caused by weather, Gordon suggests developing a companywide contact list for all employees that includes home telephone, pager and cellular telephone numbers in case employees need to be alerted of a disaster.

  3. Determine a chain of command. What if you were to die or get in an automobile accident? What if an entire crew is injured on its way to a job site and you cannot be reached? Who will be in charge? A formal chain of command will designate a leader who will have the authority to make crucial decisions and be able to contact all affected parties, including your clients and suppliers.

  4. Determine your vulnerabilities. Gordon recommends considering all things that may affect your company when developing a disaster-response plan. By thinking about all possible disaster scenarios, you will be able to develop solutions before a problem...

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