No lie, the last two months have been catastrophic for many small businesses and entrepreneurs all over the United States. The devastation in Houston, Hurricane Irma in the Southeast, and the myriad of fires in the western states, along with the "new" normal of free speech riots and civil unrest scattered all over the country means that many entrepreneurs are facing issues far worse due to the environment they operate in than ever before.
How can you hope to survive when your business was flooded out? Burned up? Looted?
In the short run, you can't.
The Small Business Administration, FEMA, and plenty of other federal and state agencies may be able to help you in the long run, and certainly provide an influx of cash, but the one thing that many small business owners rely on can be the one thing they cannot bring to bear in a worst-case scenario-
Think about it - you wake up to find that your home and business are simply gone. YOU, as the owner and a parent or spouse can't neglect taking care of your home and your family, but at the same time, your means of income is gone.
How do you rebuild? Is there a way to guard against a loss like this?
Yes. The key is to have thought through, refined, and documented the systems that make your business work. Payroll. Hiring. Logistics. Accounting - and dozens more. Of course, you are saying, "I've got that! It's all right here in my head! No problem!"
Wrong. The fact that it's "in your head" and not on paper means that, in the event of a true emergency, you'll have to be there every step of the way, teaching, training, and doing. It also means that your key employees, be they mangers or hourly staff, will have to rely on you personally solving problems and answering questions - they can't simply look it up in a well thought out manual that documents the systems they need to recreate or implement in the event of a disaster.
That's a key point - you're not designing a document to help the business survive a disaster (although you certainly could if you dedicated the time to do so) ... you're documenting how the business runs day-to-day.
Let's use an easy example with the flooding in Houston. You run a successful logistics and shipping company in an office park. Due to Hurricane Harvey, your offices are flooded and your home is damaged. What do you "fix" first? Your employees are in a similar situation - they need to stabilize their homes before they can hope to return to work but they also need the income that you and your company provide.
If you've successfully documented how the business works, then any employee can be working on getting the communications and network requirements up to par, whether that's at the dining room table of an employee's undamaged house, a conference room at a nearby hotel, or even an RV with access to Wi Fi an hour from the flooding. The same preparedness holds true for any system - be it ordering, customer service, or even training.
Remember, if your business isn't making money, then you and your employees aren't, either. As an owner and entrepreneur, your responsibility is to the business and being able to put it back online and running - even at a reduced capacity - is paramount to surviving an event like these that we've encountered the last two months.
Take the time - now - to document how the business runs - the "who, what, where, when, and how" of it all and if you find yourself in a worst-case scenario, your ability to get the doors back open will allow you to weather any storm much easier.