You can spend a lifetime of planning and preparation but there are times when your business faces external forces that could severely affect your future. In California we face the constant threat of earthquakes. In the Midwest a tornado can send everything you’ve worked for into spin cycle. And then there is just plain old simple robbery and burglary for that matter.
In fact, businesses are most likely to be affected by employee theft more than natural disaster. From missing a few pencils to someone taking an entire database of customers, this is just one of a number of disasters you should be thinking about.
Many of us have prepared a SWAT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Assets and Threats) analysis to see how we stack up against competitors, but have you done so for other challenges your business might face? Here at my home base in Northern California our energy provider basically shut off the power grid for five days as a preemptive measure against having their equipment spark another wildfire. They’re already in bankruptcy from the consequences of this happening in the past.
While the debate over who’s fault this is and how we can fix it will go on for a long time, the consequences of the power shut off were a real challenge for some and spelled the end of the struggle for other businesses. Unfortunately some of the places I really enjoy announced that they may not reopen when the power came back as the five days of loss combined with product spoilage were more than their financial reserves could handle.
While we in California are reasonably sure that an earthquake may be in our future I was rather surprised by the number of business owners in my area that were absolutely not prepared at all. Our power provider has been warning us of potential power shut offs for months and months. They’ve said that this was likely to happen and then, for days in advance, we were warned that it was likely.
Then it happened.
I talked to a number of business owners who simply told me they didn’t think it was going to happen. While bluffing may be a tactic used in poker, joking about shutting the power grid down is probably not just an ill-timed April Fool’s Day prank.
So this should come as a reminder that disaster preparedness is in our best interest. Yes, do a SWAT analysis of your business from a competitive standpoint. But also consider what kind of ill fate may befall your company based on the current environmental and other challenges. While we used to be a nation where these kinds of things just didn’t happen much, this is no longer the case.
Make sure your data is backed up off site, which I’ve described in this article. Perhaps have a way to notify team members if unforeseen surprises come up such as a secret Group on Facebook or some other social messaging system that utilizes cellular data. Though, as we saw in this most recent power event, apparently up to a third of cellular towers didn’t have access to backup power despite what the cell companies promised regulators.
Among the various lessons we learned in the five day power shutoff were that fuel supplies get thin with few filling stations able to provide fuel due to their not having power. The lines also got quite long as people were filling their vehicles as they normally would, but also filling small fuel cans to take back to their generators. This would be exacerbated in an earthquake, for us, as fuel supplies may not even be available in places where we source the fuel. And, again here in Northern California, one of the big refineries had a massive fire recently which further reduced the availability of fuel in the area
The challenge for any business is to chart the various threats that may befall them and plan for those, along with the normal competitive challenges. Furthermore, what is going to happen to your team in the event that you have to close for a day, or two, or 30?
Running a business in modern times means we’ve got ever more challenges than ever. The changing landscape that is a normal part of doing business in the modern age is complicated by our country’s greater challenges moving forward as we try to maintaining normalcy as our infrastructure ages.
So what’s your game plan for when the rules of the game change?