The Small Business Administration (SBA) reports that 25% of businesses never reopen after an emergency shutdown. Most of us consider the likelihood of a disaster to be remote. But the reality is that disaster strikes suddenly and unpredictably. Disasters are expensive even when only resulting in a minor inconvenience such as a day without power and phones. As in all things, preparation is the key to business success. Just as you prepare for your greatest challenges in business - a tough negotiation, a new market advance, a new product launch - so also you can prepare for the challenges that a disaster might throw at you.
Safety first. Prepare a written emergency plan that includes evacuation if necessary. Employee handbooks and company procedures for emergencies need to be in writing. Provide employees with CPR and First Aid training and keep the emergency supplies stocked and at hand. Both SBA and FEMA have great resources for emergency preparedness plans.
Create a succession plan. In small business, the value of one individual to a company can be hard to replace. A good succession plan anticipates how to replace the skills and value that individual provides and establishes a plan to transfer business equity into something the owner's family can use in the event the owner is injured, ill or otherwise incapacitated and unable to conduct business. This protects the family and the company from any loss during this time.
Check your lease. If you are in a leased commercial property, make sure you understand the terms under which the landlord can hold you to the lease if the property is damaged and have a back-up plan in place for the property being rendered unusable. Negotiate future leases with an eye towards worst-case scenario situations and have your attorney review them to ensure they meet your expectations.
Know your insurance coverage and upgrade if necessary to include business interruption, flood and earthquake.
Back-up records and critical data offsite and maintain firewall and anti-virus software. Not just your customer and product information but also your corporate records need to be protected offsite.
Your business attorney, insurance broker, and accountant can help you prepare these systems and plans in advance of any disaster so that your investment in your own business is protected and you don't experience a permanent shutdown.