Quote:  Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.  ~ Abraham Lincoln


Title: Disasters – 10 Ways to Be Prepared


“Disasters” for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) can arise from many sources and come in all shapes and sizes.  Many studies report that 60% to 80% of SMEs hit with a major disaster don’t survive – unless they have a contingency plan.


The “big” news items that catch our attention are usually about natural catastrophes like hurricanes, tornados, floods and wildfires.  But SMEs can also be severely impacted by death or disability of owners or key employees, strategic blunders, or lawsuits from clients, partners or competitors.


The costs of any disaster can be significant and very often there is inadequate or no insurance coverage.  In contrast, the out-of-pocket costs of preparation planning are tiny.  And yet, a contingency plan is one of those “important” but rarely “urgent” things on lots of To Do lists.


How can you move forward?


  1. Make a list of internal staff and external experts who can help you get a handle on this project.  Jot down ideal roles and responsibilities for each.  Your team can help with timetables, motivation, and input.  Don’t do this alone!
  2. Identify your business vulnerabilities: what could be a “disaster” or crisis for your business?  This is the key starting point and a good time to create a worksheet.   Team members can provide creative ideas.
  3. Each vulnerability – something that could cause a disaster – can have different causes and effects.  List these on your worksheet.
  4. For each “cause” consider how to prevent a loss or disaster from happening.
  5. Each “effect” will need a contingency or mitigation plan.  What plans can you create in advance to help a faster and less-costly recovery?
  6. Each plan step can be expanded with specific Action Steps, team member assignments, responsibilities and authorities (e.g., budget).  This is where checklists can be an essential aid to team members.

Note:  you will find many “over-lapping” action steps, so you’ll be able to re-use lots of steps to mitigate the effects of different disasters.

  1. Some research with outside resources may be useful to complete the Action Plan checklists.  Examples include:  insurance, legal, accident investigation, regulatory requirements, training courses, contingency plans of major suppliers and clients.
  2. Set timelines to get initial Plan drafts, then updates with input from others.  Celebrate the team’s accomplishments of even the small milestones!
  3. Practice is critical and often neglected.  Go through each plan step with a “table-top” exercise of possible disaster scenarios.  Verify the team’s contact lists and the urls of resources.

10. Recognize the additional benefits of prevention and mitigation planning.  What operational inefficiencies have you found?  What process or admin bottlenecks can you eliminate?  What new “aha” ideas for preventing losses have surfaced?  Which team resources have you discovered as most important in a crisis?


For many SMEs this kind of planning results in more efficient and cost effective operations and higher quality products and services.  They can actually market their Contingency Plans to customers and suppliers as a competitive advantage and a great reason for doing more business together.