How Can You Shield Your Small Business From Disaster?

StrategyDriven Risk Management Article |Small Business Protection|How Can You Shield Your Small Business From Disaster?In the early days of launching a small business, getting everything set up and running smoothly, trying to attract new customers and generate some revenue, security is an easy matter to forget about. In fact, it’s an easy matter to forget about in general, as it usually isn’t until something goes wrong that you may even notice the lack of it.

But if the current global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we never quite know what is around the corner. There is a need to be prepared though, and safeguard the business assets that you have built up so carefully. Life is full of uncertainties, and there’s nothing worse than watching everything you’ve worked so hard for get destroyed by a random twist of fate. While you can’t completely insulate yourself from every single eventuality, there are steps you can take to ensure that you have the right insight and contingency plans in place should the worst happen.

Get Protected Against Cyber Attacks

One of the biggest threats to small businesses is cyber-security. We live in a data-driven society now, and unfortunately the illegal exchange of some of those details is big business on the black market. If customer or employee details fall into the wrong hands, it’s very bad news. These details can be used in criminal activity and the repercussions can be severe. Businesses who fall victim to these types of attacks suffer a lot of damage – both because they may fall foul of data protection laws and can be prosecuted by the authorities, but also because of the reputational damage. Customers talk, and if they feel that you have not taken the right measures with their data, they’re unlikely to come back again. This goes double for digital businesses where there is a strong element of trust involved in customers handing over their details for a transaction. It’s a fact that small and medium sized enterprises are targeted more regularly by those with malicious intent, as they assume the security systems will either not be in place, or will be less sophisticated than those used by blue-chip corporations. Start by making sure that you have the latest anti-virus and malware software installed with regular security patches – Norton even make this type of software specifically for small businesses. Make sure that when you transfer data it’s sent securely via an encrypted data transfer service. Only collect the minimum of customer data that you need, be sure of what the purpose of any piece of information that you collect is and securely dispose of it as soon as it’s no longer needed. Simple steps like never leaving company devices unattended, requiring use of a secure password that is regularly updated and using automatic screen locking can also help.

Dealing With Natural Disaster

It’s not something that anyone likes to think about, but events in the natural world can sometimes overtake us. The recent forest fires, or things like hurricanes show that extreme conditions can and do occur and seem to be getting more frequent. The Small Business Disaster Survey found that 74 per cent of small businesses in the US don’t have a proper disaster recovery plan in place – meaning that if a worst-case scenario did occur, it would effectively spell the end of their company. Getting the right insurances for your business should never be an area where you cut corners. Find an insurance broker that you can speak to about your needs who will be able to find the cover that fits your business best – it can be very specific to what you do. You may find the requirements of restaurant insurance are quite different from those of an office based or a manufacturing business.

Creating A Communications Plan

Whether the situation is a natural disaster, a man-made one, or something completely unforeseen like Coronavirus, having a crisis communications plan in the event of things not being ‘business as usual’ is essential. You need to be able to send the right messages to employees and to customers when life throws a curveball. Your employee plan should include making sure that staff are safe, and determine if there are any alternative working arrangements that can be offered on a temporary basis. Remember that people are your most valuable resource, so be sensitive in your approach – if your staff have been through a crisis they may well need time to deal with their own lives and family issues as well. You should also consider what you might need to tell your customers. In some situations, you won’t be exactly sure what is happening and when business will be back to normal, and it’s okay to admit this. Just be clear that you are doing your utmost to get things back on track, keep communicating as the situation develops and be clear about channels customers can use to contact you.

Identifying Business Critical Activities

Not many small businesses can afford to shut down indefinitely if a crisis occurs. You’ll want to do what you can to get up and running again in some way, even if it’s not full service. So it’s a good idea to create a plan of which activities are business critical to your operations, and which ones could be temporarily shelved if need be. This allows you to plan resources better, and potentially redirect employees onto more urgently needed tasks. Work out of there are parts of it that can be done from an alternative location if your premises are affected. It’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan for a range of scenarios in place.

Keep In Contact With The Small Business Administration

There is some federal support available if disaster bites. The Small Business Administration (SBA) will provide disaster relief loans of up to $2 million on favourable terms, so if it’s a case of severe cash flow issues, look into those circumstances before turning to other sources of funding. You should be able to use social media to contact them if other lines of communication aren’t accessible. Equally, there can be some mileage in crowdfunding if you do it correctly. People are generally very willing to help out small businesses with a clear mission statement, so it can be worth stating your case.

Make Time To Look After Yourself

Small business owners are used to operating under a lot of pressure, and of course in times of hardship, this can go through the roof. It may seem like you’re getting pulled in every direction, but it’s important to remember that you need to treat yourself like any other resource and safeguard your own wellbeing. This means taking steps like ensuring you are getting adequate nutrition and a good night’s sleep where possible, taking some daily exercise and doing things to ease the anxiety you’re likely to be experiencing, such as using a mindfulness app or accessing a counselling service if necessary.

Securing Your Premises

Ensuring the physical security of your premises is also important. Any crime against your property is potentially a disaster that can raise the cost of doing business. Theft of business property is sadly a serious issue that does go on in companies of all sizes. Discovering one of these crimes on your own doorstep can be deeply upsetting, and take a long while to recover from. Deciding on a secure location for your premises and investing in things like a cctv network can all help to lessen the risks you face. A buildings security expert can help you to make an assessment of your premises and advise on what could be improved. Things such as steel security doors or shutters to prevent unauthorized entry, a secure alarm system throughout the building with motion sensors and automatic police notification may be worth it depending on what you do and store in your location and where it is. Adding lighting in darker areas and key entry points as well as cameras that can alert directly to your mobile phone are also steps you can take to make your physical business location a bit safer. Some businesses also decide they want to take the step of employing security guards or dogs to patrol at night – understanding how high risk your business is for an attack will help with this. Doing a comprehensive risk assessment for your premises is a good way to look at the situation dispassionately and identify any areas you could work on to make it easier to secure.

With all the many risks that going into business entails, it can be very hard to know where to concentrate efforts and resources. But it’s clear that failing to take any action at all could stand a real chance of jeopardizing everything you have worked so hard to build up. Taking small steps and pulling together a practical plan of action doesn’t have to be difficult. With the right preparation, you get the peace of mind of knowing that when everything goes a little crazy, you have the planning in place to help you get through the situation and survive to trade another day.

How Disaster Recovery Can Benefit Your Business

If you are a business, having a good disaster recovery solution in place is absolutely vital, especially given the technological world that we now live in and the advancements that have been made in the past decade. If you have not yet invested in disaster recovery for your business, then this is the article for you as we will be taking you through exactly what this is and also how it can benefit your business. Carry on reading if you want to know a little bit more about this.

What Is Disaster Recovery?

Disaster recovery is a solution that has now become a necessity for businesses as it will protect data and business information systems from any kind of possible disaster. This can be anything including human errors, natural events, hacking and even theft. As you can see, it is extremely important for businesses to have this in place in our new, modern world as these are all potential ways that you could lose a lot of sensitive and important information.

The Benefits of Disaster Recovery for Your Business

Now that you know exactly what disaster recovery is, it is time to delve into the amazing benefits that it will bring to your company.

1. Restore Time Reductions and Lower RTO & RPO

What business love about having a disaster recovery system in place is that you have the warranty of restore systems, services and applications in far shorter times and you can also enjoy a far lower RTO and RPO. Reducing your restore times drastically is pretty much impossible without using disaster recovery services and so this is a massive benefit of having this in place.

2. Limit Revenue Reduction Costs

When you reduce the restore times of business information systems you will be able to limit your losses of revenue. What’s more, you will also be able to limit losses for other costs that have been caused by downtime and management or technical assistance expenditure.

3. Safeguard Business Operations

Every business will have critical processes in place that always need to be active as they are vital to the smooth running of the business. One of the amazing benefits of using a disaster recovery solution is that these processes will be preserved and any interruptions will be kept to a minimum, so you can get your business operations back up and running in no time.

4. Protect Your Company Reputation

As we previously mentioned, when critical processes to your business are not active, this can cause your business to not run as smoothly as you would like. If this happens, this will normally result in lots of very unhappy customers! So, if you want to protect your company’s reputation and make sure that your customers are happy with the service that you are providing, you will need to make sure that you have effective disaster recovery in place.

5. Have a Plan for Unexpected Situations

No business expects to have a situation arise where they need disaster recovery, but this is exactly the point! Every business should have the peace of mind that there is a process in place should they face an unexpected situation. A disaster recovery programme will ensure that your business has a detailed plan in place to intervene in the case of an emergency. This usually involved a short restoration which is controlled in all its stages.

6. Customise Your Own Disaster Recovery

Finally, one of the best benefits of having disaster recovery solutions in place is that you can customise it so that it fits your business perfectly and works exactly how you want it to. You will be able to customise and monitor your own disaster recovery solution and this allows you to pick the replication frequency and establish what the best recovery times are for your business. Furthermore, having this personalisation also means that you can constantly control your disaster recovery site.

As you can see, there are a range of fantastic benefits that come along with having a disaster recovery solution in place. Not only that, nowadays with the latest advancements in technology it is vital for most businesses to have this in place.

Why Disaster Recovery Strategies Are Still Crucial for Businesses – Even in the Cloud Age

Recently, it was reported that scientists may have found out a very plausible reason for the disappearance of the Mayan civilization. The 3,000-year-old civilization vanished almost entirely (though there are still some descendants of the Mayans alive today) in or around the 9th century AD, and as yet, nobody really knows why this happened. They were highly advanced, large in number, and had inhabited their lands for millennia, and yet they were effectively wiped out.

The new theory, based on analysis of materials found at the bottom of what is known as the ‘Blue Hole’ in Belize, is that the Mayans left their region and dispersed, breaking up their civilization, because of a drought. A natural disaster was something that this 3,000-year-old civilization just wasn’t equipped to handle.

So, what does this have to do with your business? Well, just like the Mayans, you may well be very vulnerable to the destructive effects of a disaster.

Sophisticated Technology Only Does Part of The Job of Protecting You


Disaster recovery used to be a big deal in business, with companies prioritizing every element of their strategy as essential, from back-ups for data through to providing access to staff from offsite locations to allow for business continuity when an office and its equipment were made inaccessible (or destroyed) by a disaster.

Naturally, some of the things that took a lot of work to plan for 15 years ago are no longer such complicated problems. With the cloud, offsite back-ups are no longer essential for all businesses to preserve data if servers are destroyed. Remote working is very easy to achieve with mobile technology and SaaS applications, so keeping key staff in operation when a site is inaccessible is also no longer something that requires intense planning.

However, just because the technology is there and a lot of your DR plan can effectively be pinned on it, it doesn’t mean you no longer need one.

Detailed Planning

While you know your data is all backed up to the cloud and your staff all have access to what they need from home (or a secondary office location), you still need to look at the details. Important things include the roles and responsibilities in the event of a disaster, inter-team communication protocols, and how key stakeholders and clients will be kept up to date and provided with services during the incident.

Risk Analysis

While devising your DR plan, you should also consider the risks associated with different types of disaster, and also both the likelihood and severity of those risks. This will vary by location for things like earthquakes and hurricanes, however, some disasters like fires and floods caused by burst pipes can happen with fairly equal likelihood anywhere, and this all needs to be thought about in your plan.

Don’t rely on the fact you have the latest technology when it comes to disaster planning – the Mayans had some of the best tech of their age, too!

Radical Recovery Tools

StrategyDriven Evaluation and Control ArticleHow to survive and thrive in a down economy

You can’t turn on a television, open a paper or read a news feed today without hearing more depressing news about the economy. The crisis that started in the housing markets has unearthed a series of cascading consequences that few companies were prepared to handle.

How will this economic crisis play out? One possibility – every economist’s nightmare – is that we enter a depression. Another is that we wake up to reality, challenge the short-term profit demands of Wall Street, get strategic and build our businesses for sustainable growth.

Survive and thrive
In harsh economic times, the gut reaction of many companies is one of prudence and cost control: to take short-term actions that reassure shareholders and citizens. The biggest casualty of this type of reaction is often job loss.

Is cutting jobs the right thing to do? We do it because it’s quick and easy. Yet, the more jobs we cut, the more consumers fear for their future and stop spending. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: lack of spending leads to job cuts, leads to less spending – and so on.

Martha Rogers, co-founder of Peppers & Rogers Group, says, “This isn’t a financial crisis, but a crisis of trust.” She makes a good point.

Our actions don’t need to be all doom and gloom. While there’s no silver bullet, performance management philosophies suggest there are positive options before us. We already have the resources to survive and thrive. We just need to understand how to best deploy, grow or manage them.

If every organization has room to improve – perhaps even more than most realize – the first question we should ask is:

How do we get more out of what we already have without laying off? Start by focusing on three areas:

  • Cost reduction.
  • Productivity increases.
  • Innovation on a budget.

Cost reduction
Everyone is already reducing costs, right? Perhaps, but the better question is: Are we making smart reductions or further aggravating the problem?

In reality, most organizations are blind when it comes to cost. Peter Turney, President and CEO of Cost Technology, warns that many traditional cost-cutting exercises that companies are implementing right now could force their organizations into what he calls a “death spiral.”

Turney gives the example of outsourcing product assembly work. On a balance sheet, it may be clear that sending that work overseas is cheaper than doing it in-house, but when you look at the activity costs associated with returning products to the plant – including receiving, inventory and quality control costs – it may be more cost-effective to keep doing the assembly on-site. As this type of scenario plays out, it’s not uncommon to see further profit loss causing even more outsourcing in a continued effort to “reduce” costs – creating the spiral.

The same is true of customer profitability. All too often, those we think are our best customers – based on revenue – turn out to be our worst in terms of profit. If we decide to market our way out of the recession by attracting more of the same type of customers, we could be eroding profits further.

Turney’s point is that we tend to think about the cost of inputs and outputs and forget about the activities that support those outputs. Companies that can understand how individual processes are adding or destroying value can turn red balance sheets back into black.

What chunks of your revenue are profitable to your organization, and which are not? If you’re not applying activity-based management to your cost processes, you probably don’t know. To start reducing costs today, do an ongoing reassessment of which customers and products are building value in each quarter. The answers will point the way toward smart improvements and investments.

Productivity increases
Another obvious way to reduce costs is to increase productivity. Tor Dahl, economist and productivity expert, has been studying and helping organizations improve productivity for more than 30 years. He concentrates on removing what he calls “log jams”: things that sap energy, introduce inefficiency and create tension. Remove them, and it’s not unheard of to achieve 300 percent improvement in productivity.

“The only thing that creates new wealth in the economy is everyone being more productive than they were before,” says Dahl. “There is no other way.”

It’s ironic that so many leaders talk about employees being an organization’s best asset, yet the work force is the first thing that comes under attack when times are tough. Unfortunately, the employees who get laid off are often the same employees who know how to fix the organization’s problems. They’re simply stuck behind so much structure and politics that few feel empowered to make changes themselves.

Most employees don’t want to be unproductive. In fact, Dahl predicts that two-thirds of all stress and dissatisfaction at work comes from engaging in unproductive behavior. What can corporate leaders do to help everyone become more productive? Dahl suggests asking some simple questions:

  • What are you doing that no one in this company should be doing? Eliminate it.
  • What are you doing that should be done by somebody else? Delegate it.

The list goes on. With every answer and every solution, more time gets freed up. That extra time, along with the cost savings identified by Turney, can be used to focus on the third area: innovation.

Innovation on a budget
Carl Schramm, CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, says, “The question of innovation is central to getting out of this recession.” When most of us think about innovation, however, we think of new products that take years and years to research and develop.

To make innovation more affordable and bring products to market more quickly, Joel Barker, “the paradigm man,” futurist and author, suggests “innovation at the verge,” which he defines as bringing two or more elements of difference together in such a way that they create something new. Examples include:

  • Time-share condos, which combined the ideas of renting hotels and owning a condo.
  • The combined forklift/scale, which makes package delivery companies more efficient.

What two (or more) elements could you bring together to solve problems where you work? The answers could involve combining two systems, processes or job descriptions – not necessarily two products or physical objects.

A positive view of the future
Everyone needs to do more with less, yet everyone complains they have insufficient resources – people, money and technology – to be effective. At the same time, profit warnings are forcing organizations to compound the issue by reducing staff, freezing budgets and delaying purchases of any kind.

A more positive view explores ways to cut costs and improve productivity without laying off or reducing budgets. We have given you three areas to focus on in this article. Watch the Webcast series below for more insights.

Our hope is that readers realize there are positive options. If we act on them and help reduce the ranks of the unemployed, confidence will return, consumers will begin to spend, and we may see a return to the growth and stability of markets and economies.

This article was republished with the permission of sascom Magazine.

About the Author

Jonathan Hornby, a Senior Marketing Manager at SAS, is a visionary and thought leader in the field of performance management. His experience comes from a hands-on background within the banking sector of the United Kingdom, followed by extensive travel, dialogue, and collaboration with customers, management consultants, and respected thought leaders around the world. To read Jonathan’s complete biography, click here.