Hurricane Sandy had a devastating effect on many businesses all along the East coast, not just due to a loss of basic utilities, but because many businesses lack even a basic contingency plan for a worst case scenario. While many small business owners think that they are too small for contingency planning, in today’s day and age, it is important for all businesses, including solopreneurs, to put together a basic set of guidelines to ensure that when disaster strikes they will not lose all operational capacity.
Fortunately creating an effective contingency plan can be done in as little as three steps. The experts at Weiss & Associates, PC managed to remain “open” during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy through the implementation of three simple steps including:
- Having at least one key employee working from a remote location far away from their main operations
- Implementing voice over IP (VOIP) telephone systems in place of traditional landlines
- Implementing cloud based business systems (email, document sharing, CRM, etc) within their firm
The caveat of these steps is that they did not allow Weiss & Associates to open their physical office to clients, but rather these steps allowed the firm to continue to process ongoing client matters in addition to handling new clients via phone and email.
Focusing on these steps with more detail, having a key employee in a remote location is vital for any company because when disaster strikes, it often devastates entire regions. This means that your entire workforce can be devastated in one fell swoop. Weiss & Associates had an office manager based out of Florida who was able to handle processing: case assignments, customer service, sales, and more all from their home office. This gave the firm the ability to appear as if they were operating at near normal capacity in New York.
The advantage of having a VOIP telephone system over a traditional landline is that it allows employees to access a primary line regardless of their location. VOIP lines are typically more cost effective than traditional landlines and, in many cases, have more features included in the packages than traditional landlines. By using a VOIP line, customers are left with the impression that they are calling the primary location, even if the employees are working remotely. Additionally the use of digital fax lines allowed the firm to receive faxes via email for a nominal fee, keeping the costs low while also maximizing portability.
Finally, the use of a cloud suite can help ensure that all employees are able to continue accessing crucial business services regardless of where they are. Google Apps is often a top choice of companies because it allows employees to utilize Gmail, Google Drive, and other familiar services, which is vital to keeping training and overhead costs down. An alternative to Google Apps is Zoho, which is an online cloud suite which contains a wealth of business services such as: CRM, meetings, project management, eMail, and more. Zoho is analogous to a Swiss army knife with both free and paid editions of virtually all of its offerings. Google Apps currently is $50/user per year.
While these steps will not guarantee you will be immune from disaster when it strikes, following these simple steps are simple yet effective ways to minimize your exposure to disasters while laying the groundwork for more thorough contingency plans, if needed.
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