In the event of a natural disaster, a remote business site can help you stay in business. Here's how to set one up.
The life of a small business owner is anything but predictable. And depending on your location, your business may face unexpected devastation from a natural disaster. From hurricanes along the East Coast to tornados in the Midwest, preparing for disasters is essential to the continuance of your business.
Imagine, for instance, that a massive flood blocks all roads to your business, or that an earthquake sparks an overnight fire in your building. Where would you and your employees go to work the next day? What about the next week? It’s important to have a Plan B, a spot where you can conduct business remotely until your original location is back up and running.
Here are some tips to consider when setting up a remote business site.
1. Embrace the Cloud.
Integrating emergency actions into normal processes is the key to maintaining business as usual throughout a disaster, suggests Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs.com, a job site for part-time or full-time flexible jobs. “Start by getting into the habit of backing up all files and documents on cloud sites, such as Carbonite or Google Documents,” she says. “You’ll be able to access important information outside of the physical office.”
2. Experiment—Beforehand—with Employee Telecommunication.
In the event of a disaster, chances are employees will need to work from home. Fell suggests doing pre-disaster dry runs to determine if telecommunicating can work for your business. “Try telecommunicating one day a week or once a month to help work out kinks before something bad happens,” Fell says. “Educate employees to use communication services that allow them to stay connected from home, such as email, instant messaging, message boards, and phone or video conferencing.”
3. Use a Co-Working Facility.
If a disaster destroys your physical office, it may be important to find a location to host client meetings or conferences. “An alternative location gives business owners an actual address to use while the original site is in recovery,” suggests Wes Walker, who owns an Intelligent Office franchise in Boston that provides virtual office services and technologies. Like Intelligent Office, many temporary office locations are equipped with furnishings, conference rooms, Internet access, mailboxes and a receptionist to answer calls and take messages—a godsend when you need customers to be able to reach you.
4. Stay Connected with Employees and Customers.
If a disaster takes down power lines or destroys your physical building, sustaining contact with your employees and customers is critical. Be sure to update emergency contact methods for customers on your Facebook page or website, such as alternative phone numbers and mailing addresses. Also, plan a phone tree for employees to tell them where, and how, business will be conducted in case of an emergency.
RELATED: How to Craft a Disaster Plan
5. Set up Transaction Support.
Your business can’t afford to miss revenue during a disaster, so finding a reliable payment method ensures you will get paid for your services should mail delivery cease or your building is inaccessible. “Make credit card transactions available,” whether or not you have a machine handy, Walker says. This may mean setting up a PayPal account or implementing online payment options on your website.
See Dealing with Disaster in the June/July issue of MyBusiness Magazine