If your internet service provider went down, your electricity went out, or your credit card processing went down, what would you do?
If you don’t know, then your business may be lacking a backup plan. More formally, this could be considered a part of Business Continuity Planning (BCP) or Resiliency Planning.
Resiliency planning can cover a range of threats such as war or natural disaster. While it is good for a business to plan for these things, when you’re starting a business, you probably aren’t going to be coming up with detailed contingency plans in cases of war.
While this is understandable, this does not excuse you from planning for other more potential problems.
What got me to thinking about this today was when my wife and I were doing some shopping. We arrived at the last store we needed to visit for the evening and noticed the parking lot was eerily empty.
We walked up to the door and noticed that we were there within their hours of operation, but as we got closer, we saw a sign on the door.
The sign stated that they were closed for the day because their cash register system went down, and they were unable to accept credit cards. Now, this was not a small store by any stretch of the imagination.
They are one of the top 3 crafts stores in the United States, so I was extremely surprised to see that there weren’t plans in place for such a situation.
What Could They Have Done?
I don’t know the exact root of the problem, but assuming it was an internet issue, I would be surprised that they didn’t have dial back-up systems in place. Obviously, I’m not going to speculate on every type of possibility, but there is always a way to maintain your continuity.
Even if you have no way of automatically processing your credit cards over the internet or phone line, credit card processors provide backup options such as the ability to call in for an authorization, then entering it later when your systems are operational. This is referred to as voice authorization, and is a service provided by all credit card processors that I’ve worked with.
In addition to that, there is always that forgotten payment method: cash. Granted, many customers no longer carry cash, it is still an option, and it should be used.
Planning For Other Situations
This is just one example of many that I encountered, and it shut a massive business down for the day (a weekend no less!). There are some situations that may require plans on your part:
- Power failure
- Internet failure
- Key employees leaving
- Key hardware failures
- Vendors not delivering on time, or not at all.
I’m sure you can think of plenty of problems that would require plans, but the hardest part is coming up with plans. Even if your plan is to shut down for the day, that will save you the trouble, and money of having a bunch of people standing around figuring out what to do. Obviously, it would be better for you to figure out how to remain operational, but that is your decision.
The final step is to ensure that you probably educate the key people about your plan. It’s possible that the store we wanted to visit had a plan in place, but the personnel may not have known. This does no good, and is an easily avoidable problem. Provide the knowledge to your personnel, and consider having it outlined in a hard copy document that the personnel can access.
Educating your personnel is extremely important, and even more so if you anticipate not being on the premises often. Your business will only manage as well as your personnel are educated.
Do you have resiliency plans in place for your business? Have you had to use a contingency plan? Have you ever had to shut down business for a problem that seemed relatively trivial and easily compensated for with a proper plan? Let us know in the comments.