Business in the Time of a Disaster

Weather can be catastrophic, but disasters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, both natural and man-made. So, what happens when a disaster hits your area and your business? Do you have a disaster recovery plan in place? How will you keep your business running in the time of a disaster?

This is a topic many don’t think about until it’s too late and a disaster is upon them. Many businesses provide services and products to customers outside the disaster area, and with that our customers and employees depend on us to maintain a provisional plan for continuity even in the worst of conditions.

An Ounce of Preparedness

Being prepared may seem like a low priority to some companies given the pace of day-to-day business and the myriad demands put upon people and organizations, but disasters can hit anywhere and sometimes with very little to no warning. And when they do, the unprepared business can find itself in very big trouble. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that 40 percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster, with another 25 percent failing within one year post-disaster. They attribute this to businesses being grossly under-prepared and unaware of what options exist should they require assistance. Creating a disaster recovery plan includes many considerations with insurance and available public service being just two.

Sadly, many business owners don’t fully understand what is and what isn’t covered by their property insurance, another item that needs close consideration before disaster strikes. Properly insuring the value of your business, understanding the geography of where your business is located and if flood or earthquake coverage should be a supplemental policy with your current insurance coverage, are vital considerations. Another situation to think about is, what you’ll do should there be a long interruption with your day-to-day business. What will happen if you can’t “reopen your doors” in a timely manner? You need to plan against how the downtime of your business will disrupt incoming revenue and profits; many insurance carriers offer business suspension coverage and depending on your business, it can be a lifesaver for your organization.

For the small business owner who is not properly insured, the Small Business Administration offers low-interest loans. For some owners, this may be a necessary option for re-establishing their business, especially if the business is not insured optimally.

Also, you need to consider your employees and how the disaster will affect them. If your business location is uninhabitable, they will be out wages and work. A supplemental policy called wage replacement insurance can be included in your policy if your business suspension coverage doesn’t already address covering employee wages.

There are guides and best practices, established by many reputable organizations, which can help pull together the information you need to be ready in the event of a disaster.

What to Consider

Depending on your business, some things to consider can be:

  • Your equipment and how dependent you are on it to run your business. For example, are you a software or communications provider? If so, you will need to make arrangements to ensure that any necessary equipment is housed safely within the confines of your building. It’s also important to ensure that all data is backed up in another, separate location such as a secure facility or in the cloud.
  • Your employees and how to communicate with them. Some companies have what they call a “phone chain.” This system allows companies to prepare employees well before a threatening situation presents itself by training them to become familiar with how a phone chain works and how each person is a link in the chain.  This pre-emptive strategy ensures each employee is “linked” to another employee and provided adequate communications on any event that will impact their ability to work on-site at their employer or to be made aware of an impending or current threatening situation.
  • Redirecting your phones so employees can continue to communicate with clients can ensure there is no disruption to your service delivery. This, of course, is only a viable solution in the instance of having business locations outside the disaster area.
  • Establishing multiple geographic locations which can serve as a backup plan in the instance of a natural disaster impacting a specific region. If designed properly, these satellite locations act as a seamless continuation of your business. With the aid of a “universal” database that’s accessible to all employees regardless of geography, companies can put all relevant information in one online location so details of customer accounts, for example, can be accessed when needed.
  • Remote Employees: As with satellite locations, having a remote workforce is not only a modern-day workforce dynamic, it’s a practice many smart companies are establishing. This is a solution that can solve many problems above and beyond business continuity in the time of a disaster. Because remote workers need to be great collaborators, along with being very capable of working well individually, they can be a lifeline to the continuity of your business by carrying on with the day-to-day necessities of work. Obviously, each business and the needs of its customers are different, but thinking about the potential of disaster solutions and proactively considering remote work as an option for business continuity, is certainly worth the mention.

The Aftermath

Though many businesses will not reopen, there are survival stories. Re-establishing your business after the onslaught of a disaster will not be easy, but it is doable if you plan ahead with a recovery strategy. There may be a lot of work in the recovery process or a little… either way, the devastation, regardless of how minimal, will impact your business to some extent. Of course, being proactive with a disaster recovery plan upfront will give you the peace of mind you need during a stressful situation and allow you to focus on getting back to business as usual.

Photo Credit: cfdtfep Flickr via Compfight cc

How Resilient Company Cultures Ensure Business Continuity

It is fascinating that in only a few short years, the entire business community has changed. What’s more, it’s only going to keep changing as attitudes and technologies continue to evolve. To stay on top, a business must remain relevant and be prepared to make the most of the constantly shifting market. Endless ideas and tips are thrown at business owners as a result—with the number one focus on adopting an agile company culture. Is agility the only key to success?

Why Company Culture Makes All The Difference In The World

Many experts define company culture as the very personality of a business. It determines the work environment for employees and how customers perceive the brand. Company culture comprises many different aspects, including:

  • Mission statement:The founding principle of the company is very important to its culture.
  • Ethics: This is another important factor that affects both employees and customers.
  • Goals: The size and focus of these goals say a lot about the business—perhaps more than the mission statement.
  • Work environment: This considers the overall “mood” of the business and how fulfilled employees feel while working there.

What “Agile” Company Culture Means For A Business And Why It’s Not Everything

If you’re a business owner, you’ve likely heard about making your company culture agile—on more than one occasion. I’ve even spoken about the importance of agility in some of my own articles. That’s because the ability to adapt to change is crucial in this fast-paced world. If you can’t develop new plans and strategies fast enough, then your competitors begin to outshine you.

The ability to change swiftly isn’t the only aspect of company culture with which you should be concerned. It’s also crucial that your business’s personality is just as resilient. Why should it be resilient if it’s agile enough to change? It’s simple: Change doesn’t always happen the way you’d like.

No matter how well you prepare or how much research you do, you won’t be ready for every new development. Sometimes you’re simply going to fall behind. New techniques might prove ineffective, or technology you’ve been working to implement might be a flop. Life is unpredictable for the most part, but one thing is certain—business owners will always face new challenges. Resilience means you’ll be able to pull through the worst of times—and keep your company on track for the future.

Let’s compare your company to a boat. You buy the nicest motor, sleek interior, and powerful steering system available, but your hull is made of glass. Sure, the machine will be impressive, but the slightest damage will cause the boat to begin sinking. Once the glass is cracked, it’s impossible to repair—the entire boat must be replaced. Resilience is using a steel hull instead of glass. It’s tough but also easy to patch, keeping the rest of your investment safe no matter what’s ahead lurking in the water.

Obviously, no one builds boats out of solid glass because they would be too fragile. Yet many companies take a similar risk by focusing solely on adaptability. When you craft a business that’s insulated from the inside, you’re protecting your future.

Everything You Need To Know About A Resilient Company

Your company can display two types of resilience—business resilience and cultural resilience. Business resilience depends upon technology and systems. Data backup plans and emergency alerts help you stay on top of the problem and protect your assets no matter the situation. Cultural resilience is different, but just as important. It is the ability to maintain composure and an effective business image regardless of the situation. For example, remaining optimistic and eager after a technological flop speaks volumes about the mindset of your business.

Cultural resilience is much more difficult to develop than business resilience. It’s easy to download new software but much more time consuming to change mindsets and outlooks. Being able to cultivate this type of company personality is very rewarding—and effective.

The Phoenix Effect

In the same way that wealthy people can lose it all and rebuild again, businesses must be able to recreate themselves after disruption and failure. This is like the legendary phoenix—a mythological bird that was reborn through flames over and over again. The way you react to your trials will determine whether you’ll reach your goals or crumble.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

Violence On The Job: It Pays To Prepare #TChat Recap

“Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” ―Gen. George S. Patton

This week’s #TChat events coincided with the anniversary of a difficult date in U.S. history — September 11. As our nation considered lessons learned from terrorist events 12 years ago, our TalentCulture community came together to crowdsource ideas about a topic that is vital every day of the year: How to prevent workplace violence, and prepare for incidents that may occur.

Workplace Violence Stats

Learn more – read “Stopping Workplace Violence” at CFO Magazine

According to OSHA, workplace violence includes a range of behaviors that put workers at risk while on the job — from verbal threats and abuse to physical assault and even homicide. How prevalent are these harmful incidents? Some notable facts:

• Each year, more than 2 million Americans report that they have been victims of violence in the workplace. (See details from the U.S. Dept. of Labor.)

• A surprising proportion of incidents are fatal. As the adjacent image illustrates, nearly 20% of on-the-job fatalities are associated with workplace violence, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

• Workplace violence is estimated to cost employers a whopping $120 billion a year. And of course, the human toll is incalculable.

For these reasons alone, workplace violence is a growing concern that deserves serious attention.

Violence At Work: What To Do?

To lead this week’s conversation, we welcomed two experts:
• Tom Bronack, President of Data Center Assistance Group, specialists in enterprise resiliency.
Felix Nater, Founder of Nater Associates, a business security advisory firm.

On #TChat Radio, Tom explained that companies can achieve more effective compliance and recovery through a strategy of enterprise resiliency — combining all recovery operations and personnel in a single entity that speaks the same language and uses the same tool set. Why is this important? As Tom noted during the #TChat Twitter discussion:

Felix emphasized the need for proactive violence prevention programs in the workplace, explaining that preparation can decrease incidents by improving problem solving and conflict resolution. He also noted that broader awareness is worth the investment of time, energy and resources to identify threats and mitigate risks. During the Twitter chat, he suggested a handy mnemonic:

He also cautioned us that results come from solid planning, in concert with effective execution:

Tom and Felix inspired many participants to join the conversation last night. Thanks to everyone who contributed opinions and insights! Highlights are captured in the Storify slideshow below, along with resource links from the week. We invite you to review these ideas and share them with others. Who knows? You could be a catalyst to make your organization a safer place to work!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Violence Prevention In Today’s Workplace

SUN 9/8:

Nater and Bronack_KK2

See the preview post and videos

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald introduced the topic, in a post that featured brief “sneak peek” G+ Hangout videos with both of our guests. Read the Preview: “Workplace Violence: Myth and Reality.”

MON 9/9: Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro outlined 5 ways that organizations can be proactive in maintaining a safe workplace culture. Read: “Is Your Workplace Prepared For Violence?”

WED 9/11:

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio: As a prelude to our open Twitter chat, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, talked with Felix Nater and Tom Bronack about best practices in workplace violence prevention and preparedness, while community members added their thoughts on the #TChat Twitter backchannel.

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, I joined Felix, Tom, Meghan, Kevin and our entire community on the #TChat Twitter stream for an open discussion focused on 5 key workplace violence questions. For highlights from the conversation, see the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Workplace Violence & Preparedness

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Felix Nater and Tom Bronack for joining us this week. Your insights are raising awareness and providing solutions that make the world of work a more secure, productive place for us all.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about workplace safety? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we tackle another timely topic in today’s workplace: Creative ways to leverage big data in recruiting top talent. This promises to be a really interesting peek into candidate profiling. So save the date (September 18) for another rockin #TChat double header. And keep an eye out for details in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues! So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and your thoughts are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Graeme Lawton via Flickr