For large companies, a flood or other disaster can be difficult to come back from, but for a small business owner in the early stages, it can be the end. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, roughly 40 percent of companies hit by natural disasters never reopen.
Luis Yepéz almost became that statistic. After 5 years of owning and operating Mainstream Global, an international computer product reseller business located in Lawrence, Massachusetts, he watched the Merrimack River overflow and destroy his business, including inventory and unshipped orders.
Without a disaster preparedness plan in place, it took three months, money out of his own pocket, and the help of the SBA and his local chamber of commerce, but he was able to get his business back up and running and keep his 12 employees on payroll.
While preparing for a catastrophic event like the one Yepéz faced sounds scary, it’s also a lot less difficult than you might think. In the last few years there’s been a massive shift in digital technology that works to your advantage. It’s called the cloud.
“The cloud” can be used loosely as a synonym for “the internet.” Think of it as an infinitely large, secure, digital space that acts as storage for your files and can deliver servers and applications directly to your personal computer.
As a small business owner you’re probably already using email and online documents to your advantage, but what you may not know is that cloud technology can help you lay the foundation for all aspects of your disaster preparedness plan. Between tools that allow you to run your business in the cloud, the collaboration that cloud technology affords you and your team, and a variety of online apps, you can not only prepare your company to recover quickly in case of a disaster, you can set it on the fast track to excel.
Here’s how you can get started making the cloud work for you before disaster strikes…
Make time to create a disaster plan, and involve your employees
The number one thing that Luis Yepéz could have done before the Merrimack River wreaked havoc on his business was to create a disaster plan. Too many tasks and too little time and resources are pretty much the normal state for most small business owners. With constant stress, you may have a hard time sitting down to prepare for a hypothetical event that’s not in front of you right now.
But creating a disaster plan is critical. At a minimum, it will help you uncover and prioritize which areas of your business will need the most attention in case of a disaster. For example, you may decide that you can live with a higher deductible on the insurance premium covering your business equipment, but that the accounting, inventory and shipping systems part of your business operations would be safer running in the cloud. Involving your employees in this process can also help you identify which areas need the most attention.
Once you’ve prioritized, figure out where to use the cloud across your business
With a disaster plan in place that identifies your priorities, it’s time to leverage cloud technology to get your business backed up online in key areas. Here are a few things to consider starting with:
- Accounting. With online bookkeeping rapidly evolving, you can now easily use the cloud to automate your accounting, expense reports, debits and credits and more. A plethora of apps exist for you to choose from, including platforms like Freshbooks, Zoho Books,Quickbooks, FinancialForce Accounting.
- Inventory and Customer Record Management (CRM). While there are a variety of cloud-based options, look for an inventory management and/or CRM solution that makes it simple to connect multiple parts of your business like converting your potential customers into customers, sending invoices, and tracking payments.
- Payroll and Benefits. With services like Gusto around (formerly Zenpayroll), you can now keep, manage and access all documentation for your employees’ pay and benefits online. You can pay your team electronically and payroll and benefits services can also handle all your tax reporting and documentation, which can be a huge time-saver.
- Consider using apps like DropBox or Google Drive to store key documents like tax returns, employee contracts, customer contracts, and other legal documents integral to the business.
If you’re interested in exploring cloud-based software solutions that might be suited for your business and your disaster preparedness needs, check out platforms like GetApp and Capterra, both of which are business apps marketplaces specifically designed to help small and medium businesses discover, compare, and review business software solutions, utilizing independent product and user reviews, side-by-side comparisons and other useful tools.
Put 30 minutes each month on your calendar to review the plan
Once you’ve got a disaster preparedness plan in place, don’t stop there. Things change quickly in a small business. This means that parts of your plan may be obsolete in the next six months. That’s why having good habits is one of the most critical foundations for a small business owner. Keeping a recurring 30 minute spot on your calendar every month is one of those habits, and even if nothing’s changed since last month, it’s an item you can check off of your list. It will feel good to get momentum and to know that you’re on top of things if a disaster happens.
This article was originally seen on YP℠ Marketing Solutions blog.