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Contingency planning – have you got it covered?

Do you know your business contingency plan? This time last year, few SME owners would have prioritised contingency planning for a major disaster or even had it on their radar. But twelve months on, the world is a different place and we’re all aware of the far-reaching and potentially catastrophic impact of an unexpected event. This is why business contingency planning is so important.

The Coronavirus pandemic has been a salutary lesson to everyone about planning for the expected and being prepared for anything.  And while a worldwide disaster is an exceptional situation, it serves as a useful reminder that a curveball can completely derail a business if resilience isn’t built-in.

Contingency planning is all the more important for sole traders who have no one to step in if disaster strikes, but every business can benefit from taking time to consider what could go wrong and coming up with solutions in advance. Waiting until the worst happens is too late…

Let’s hope that another emergency on the scale of Covid-19 will not happen again, but something as simple as jury service or a stay in hospital can seriously impact a business. Health issues, family problems, even a car break-down can be a disaster if it comes at the wrong time.

Disasters you can plan for

It’s impossible to mitigate for every eventuality, but most problems have a simple solution if you plan ahead.

So what kind of disasters do you need to consider, and how can you plan for them? Here are a few examples:

  • You’re unwell and can’t work for several weeks
  • You have family problems and need time away
  • School closes due to snow and the children need collecting/looking after
  • Your car breaks down
  • You’re called for jury service

These kinds of issues require support, either from family and friends or other professionals who can cover your work while you’re away. Something as simple as organising a school pick-up buddy in case you’re held up or making sure you have comprehensive breakdown cover for your car can make all the difference in an emergency.

Finding someone who can step in if you need time away from your business can be more difficult, so it’s worthwhile building relationships in networking groups and getting to know reliable sub-contractors. Make sure someone close to you knows how to access everything too – business security is crucially important but it’s no use if you’re the only one who has access to all the contacts and files when you’re indisposed.

Looking after your health should be part of your contingency planning too because being out of action for any length of time will harm your business. It’s worthwhile considering private health insurance if it’s financially viable as it offers the ability to choose dates for non-urgent surgery and access treatment quickly for debilitating conditions such as back problems.

Preparing for potential digital and cyber disasters

Sometimes it’s technology rather than people that causes the emergency. So what issues might create major problems? Here is a handful that you should plan for:

  • Lost/broken mobile phone
  • No internet access
  • CRM has lost all client data
  • Website has crashed or been hacked
  • Laptop has died, losing important files

Technology problems are the ones we all dread – the thought of losing our mobile phone or our laptop crashing at a crucial moment. But with careful planning, it’s possible to turn a disaster into a minor inconvenience.

Modern mobile phones are like mini-computers and have all sorts of features that can help to either find them when they’re lost or lock them so others can’t use them. The ‘find my iPhone’ option helps locate your device by logging into your account online, and you can even remotely erase all your data if you’re worried it’s fallen into the wrong hands.

You can do the same with a Windows 10 device (laptop or tablet) by signing into your Microsoft account and using the ‘find my device’ option. You can also remotely lock the device so no one else can open or use it.

Back-up to the ‘cloud’

Cloud back-up is a smart way to make sure you never lose important files or data, whether it’s your phone contacts or all the documents on your laptop. Backing up files to a cloud, or permanently working in the cloud, ensures a computer crash won’t wipe out your business. Always make sure every bit of your data is backed up – CRM, website content, presentations and reports. Save it, don’t lose it.

And if your internet crashes or you desperately need a connection for your laptop when you’re on the go, you can use WiFi tethering from your mobile phone. This is especially useful if you don’t want to use a public WiFi connection for security reasons, and you can share it with colleagues to enable you all to work together.

Keep your and your client's data safe!

It’s important to keep your information safe and make sure you don’t fall prey to cyber criminals. Online crime is incredibly sophisticated so take time to understand the steps you should take to protect yourself, whether it’s avoiding malware or using two-factor authentication for sensitive accounts. The National Cyber Security Centre has lots of free helpful information for small businesses and The Information Commissioner’s Office has useful advice about data protection too.

Check your website security and make sure you know who to call if it crashes, or what to do if you run your own website and it fails. If you’re not technically minded, find someone who can offer support and advice in case of an emergency. Business networking groups are a great place to meet people who can offer mutual help – trade your area of expertise for someone else’s!

Insurance is another important element of contingency planning, covering everything from public liability if something goes wrong to business cover if your internet fails or your laptops are stolen in a break-in. Make sure your policies are up to date and fit for purpose.

I can help with your contingency planning!

As a virtual assistant, I’m able to offer contingency planning to my clients as part of my service. If they are unexpectedly away from their business, I can access their diaries, call clients to reschedule meetings, send holding emails and set automatic replies until they return. Just knowing there’s a plan in place should an emergency arise offers reassurance and provides resilience.

Planning for every eventuality is impossible but making contingencies for all the ones you can think of means you can sleep easier at night! For more advice about disaster planning, drop me an email at