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Protecting the essential

Last week I wrote about identifying the essential aspects of your business as one step in contingency planning. Obviously, the next thing is to protect those aspects as much as possible…

I see there are two distinct ways to protect essential details – find ways to prevent those details being hurt or destroyed and find ways to stop the business being so reliant on those details.

Each aspect of your business may require very different techniques for protection against damage, but the idea is to reduce the risk of a problem and then reduce the length of time before it is operational again.

Here are some examples of how to protect some aspects of your business – and you can use these even if they don’t count as essential aspects of your business:

  • provide a safe working environment for yourself and staff – it may sound simple, but imagine a masseur or carpenter falling over a loose cord and breaking their arm …
  • isolate people during health issues – for instance, swine flu can’t spread  if those with the disease are not near everyone else. This can mean sick people don’t come to work or you arrange for remote access for sick people and/or essential staff
  • have computer back up systems in place – and store the data off site. We use carbonite as it regualrly backs up for us and we can reclaim work easily at any time, even after human errors rather than major problems
  • make sure your equipment is serviced and cleaned frequently
  • instal security alarms, locks and so on to protect against theft
  • ensure smoke and fire alarms are working and placed appropriately – smoke alarms above a stove going off all the time tend to be ignored so move them
  • purchase a fire proof safe to store precious documents, data and equipment
  • establish rules to minimise damage of fragile and essential items – for instance, only fully licensed drivers do deliveries, store fragile items out of walkways and on stable surfaces
  • research details for a back up web host in case you need to swap in a hurry (for example their servers were damaged in a natural disaster and your site would be down for weeks)
  • have a spare computer and monitor available to use if necessary – it doesn’t have to be as good as your usual computer as long as it can cope with the basic and essential requirements
  • know where you can hire replacement equipment if need be, and keep those details somewhere accessible

What other ways have you protected your essential business assets?

What’s essential?

With the bushfires and floods, the global financial crisis and swine flu, every business should be thinking about having contingency plans in place. I gave some tips on preparing for a distruption to your business and being prepared, but real contingency planning requires even more effort.

A key step in ensuring your business can survive a major issue is understanding what is essential. Protecting and replacing the essential is what helps you survive – other things may be important  but are of little use if the essential factors are missing.

For example, it is important to have the Word Constructions website online but it is essential that I have a computer and software for preparing documents (yes, I can write with pen and paper but it isn’t very professional to hand that to a client!)

So what is essential in your business? Think about the essential equipment, skills, people, services and resources you rely on.

Imagine a dentist’s surgery without a dentist, an engineering firm with no engineers, a dressmaker business with no sewing machine, a hairdresser with no scissors and a referral agency missing its directories.

Make a list of what is essential for your business, and perhaps a second list of what is very important but non-essential.