As a sole trader or small business owner, what happens if the worst happens?
This may sound dramatic, but as a practical virtual assistant, I am being pragmatic. Do you have an emergency plan?
Your clients rely on you to provide them with a service. With all the best intentions, there may be a time when you aren’t able to turn up for work. What needs to happen to protect your business and your customers?
“One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose” – Randy Pausch, Professor of Computer Science.
As a small business owner, has anyone ever asked you what plans you have in place if you are out of action?
It can be reassuring to customers to know that you have considered all eventualities and are prepared. They want to be confident that their business is not going to be compromised if someone else has to take charge.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we can’t know what is around the corner. Disruption to our business can be caused by ill health, fire, a power outage, cyber-attack and more. It is possible to retain control by considering what would need to happen if you were out of the picture for a while. Being prepared could save your clients, colleagues and family a lot of stress.
What’s more, with plans in place, it is easier to delegate. This will take the pressure off while you are unable to work and offers the added bonus that you have the confidence to step out of the business for a holiday!
You can learn more in my blog about Risk planning and mitigation.
What needs to be done?
In every business, there are standard processes that keep everything ticking over. Have you created a list of the tasks that it is necessary to complete every day, week month and year? An Operations Manual.
The list of tasks might be extensive, but it gives an overview of what it takes to run your business.
Additionally, reviewing this document regularly will help to identify opportunities for improvements, for example, to automate certain processes. Are there regular tasks that you could delegate or outsource? Sharing the load can help you to be more productive in the areas where your skills and expertise reap rewards.
Ultimately you are looking to have a list of key tasks and owners so the essentials are covered if you are not able to work.
Who should be contacted?
Do you have a comprehensive list of all employees/sub-contractors, clients, suppliers, partner organisations, funders and other relevant parties? In a worst-case scenario, could someone else access this information and know who to contact?
Consider what actions and messages you would need to send for a short-term break, as well as the next steps if it were a longer-term situation. If the worst were to happen who would know what to do to close down the business?
In case of emergency document
As a Virtual Assistant, I have helped companies with ‘in case of emergency’ planning. A 10 Step Plan is outlined below.
Provide contact details in a Contacts document or CRM. If your business had to close with immediate effect, provide a tailored message that can be sent to your clients that will let them know what is happening. Create a separate message for suppliers and other business contacts
Give information on how to change the mobile voice mail message and then consider cancelling the account
3. Website & Email
Set an out of office email message and put a holding message on the website. Provide details of the website host and IT support so they can be contacted to close the email account and take down the business website
Provide access details for social media accounts, so update messages can be posted, with a final message before the account is closed. Also, give details of any directory listings which may need to be taken down
Provide access details for all systems that are used within your business. Give instructions on the necessary steps to close the systems
Provide details of business bank accounts, accountant and/or bookkeeper. Have a contingency fund so that outstanding invoices or client refund can be paid
Refer to the contact details file or CRM for information on retainer clients and rates. Provide steps on how to reimburse any clients for outstanding hours
8. Business Premises and Equipment
If you lease premises, vehicles or machinery, provide contact details for the lease company. Prepare information on what should happen to any machinery and other capital used in the business. Provide details of any utilities companies and office maintenance to contact
Provide information on how to contact and inform HMRC, insurance companies and governing bodies
10. Memberships and subscriptions
Provide details of any organisations that you are a member of, subscribe to or pay an annual fee for. This can include insurance, health & safety, industry boards and business groups.
Share this document with trusted people. Provide the access needed but be security-minded. Consider a password management tool like Lastpass with which you can nominate a deputy in case of emergency. If possible, set up a second in command on systems and profiles, such as Facebook.
To help with documenting all of this information I have created an Emergency Contact Template which you can download free at the bottom of this blog.
Branded Digital Documents
If you want something more bespoke than the generic template, I can format your information into a clear, branded documents, that you can assign to nominated personnel. They will then be equipped to step in and undertake the necessary tasks should the need arise.
Additionally, digital documents are straightforward to keep up-to-date. An annual review of the Information will ensure that the details are correct.
This may seem like a lot of work for an event that is unlikely to happen. If the need to use it should arise, consider how complicated it will be for someone else to work through the stages without your contingency plan.
Contact me to find out more
Emergency Contacts Template: Free Download
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