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    Disaster-Proof Your Small Business (Core Lesson)

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    If we’ve learned anything from COVID, it’s that emergencies can and do happen so it’s critical that you disaster-proof your business.

    Career entrepreneurs, you NEED to read this now!

    Disasters aren’t just about pandemics, hurricanes, floods, and natural catastrophes that put your business out of commission.

    It’s the unexpected little things, like not updating an app, not having access to a password, or getting into an accident, which can derail your business. 

    But, outside of a few extreme situations, if you make plans, have processes, and follow a number of easy steps, you can be back in business (or even operate seamlessly throughout) quickly and easily. 

    In this lesson you will learn:

    Processes you need to ensure an appropriate financial safety net when emergencies arise (and they will). 

    Benefits of double redundancy backups. 

    Ways to maintain emergency readiness for phone, backups, power, and storm supplies. 

    When to do equipment checks for systems, apps and software, backups, and password access. Plus, the all-important unplug. 

    How to think “grab and go” ready, both personally and professionally. 

    Steps to make your emergencies stress-free with clients and prospects. 

    Strategies for being proactive in work projection for a lower-stress disaster. Yes, the recent hurricane was like a vacation become of my advanced planning!

    Approaches for gaining support on your website and your business during business interruptions (customer support and profit making).

    Paths toward creating policies and procedures (and what you need to consider) to emergency-proof your business. Bonus – they can also prepare you for business expansion with VAs and staff, as well as for selling your business!

    Plus access additional CDI resources for planning a stress-free vacation where you can still make $$, better managing your time, and using scripts and packaging processes to increase your revenue to gain the security you need.  

    Don’t leave your business to chance.

    Everybody needs time off, and you will take it by choice or by chance. The unexpected is inevitable, so it’s best to plan for it to the best of your ability. 

    Be ready by taking steps now to disaster-proof your business!

    So, following Hurricane Irma, which left CDI without a business phone line for 10 days, members are asking me about how to prepare for a disaster so you can pick back up once it’s over. It also immediately made me think back to the swine flu epidemic and CDI’s annual conference. We had $70K in contracts on the line, and if I got sick, no one would have had a clue what to do in order to pick up where I left off.

    What I’m expressing to them (and to you) is that this is a lot like what we teach our interview coaching clients – you’ve got to have a plan BEFORE it happens.

    Because, let’s face it, most disasters that will befall you aren’t ones you can plan for like a hurricane or a pandemic.

    If your house and home office burn up from faulty wiring or flood from a broken water heater, there won’t be time to salvage your files. You need backup alternatives in place!

    If you get sick and can’t work, what will happen? Will there be someone to let your clients know? To make sure the bills get paid?

    If you haven’t kept apps up to date and you get locked out of critical software at the last minute before a presentation, how will you recover?

    Making sure your business can survive any size disaster means having a plan in place now!

    Plus, having a plan can free you up to avoid stress and the resulting spiking cortisol and illness. In fact, the days after Hurricane Irma, I felt like I was on vacation floating in the pool and taking it easy. Sure, it was kind of a hot vacation as we didn’t want to waste the generator power on a window air conditioner we keep just in case, but the fans worked fine. It was pleasurable to read to my husband by battery-powered lantern light and to play Monopoly. We also enjoyed taking walks, helping neighbors, cleaning up the yard, and eating yummy smoked meats from our propane smoker.

    So, here’s some things you need to think about:

    Note: If you are not yet a member, the information is in the tips below but you will not be able to access any links to deep dive resources. You can learn more about membership and why CDI members typically make 2-3 times the rates of their colleagues here.

    Charge What You are Worth to Build Savings: So many career professionals are concerned with charging too much, and end up living week to week. YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE. You deserve to be compensated for your work. That doesn’t mean just enough to get by but rather enough to also afford rejuvenating time off, a personal life, at least one month of savings in the bank, a retirement fund, and healthcare. You’ve got to build those items into your pricing, packaging, and selling strategy. Because an emergency is going to come up. It might not be a natural disaster, but you could need surgery, break your wrist, or have to care for an ailing child, spouse, or parent. You’ve got to get that money in the bank.

    Check out a 3-Step Process to a 97% Close Rate and a 6-Figure Income (Core Lesson) as a good starting point. Then, look at the Selling & Pricing member category for numerous great resources. Also, How to Take a Vacation and Not Lose Business (Best Practice Tip) is a great tool.

    Have Double Redundancy Data Backup: In our business, it’s your client records and data that count. I could literally run my business from anywhere in the world, as long as I had a computer, internet connection, and a phone line. But I would be set back to the stone age if I suddenly lost all my client records, marketing files, IRS records, and the like. For as long as I can remember I’ve had an external hard drive backup set to do continuous backup. Imagine how lucky I felt a couple of years ago when my computer caught on fire! I was so lucky that the external drive that was sitting on top of it, didn’t get damaged! But it made me jump to double redundancy with a backup in the Cloud. Now, I use Carbonite and also have a mirror backup through them, which is great if you really did lose your computer to sudden death. You can be up and running on a new system much faster. There are lots of options out there, but sites can get hacked, hard drives can be faulty — your data is gold so choose more than one backup as it is worth it!

    Maintain Emergency Resources: Depending on the type of emergency, some of these may not apply. But if you are in an area prone to major storms, it is always a good idea to be prepared. That way, when a storm is headed your way you can focus on getting your business ready vs. driving around town just to find empty shelves or stand in line all day. Here are some suggestions:

    Always have a battery-based charger for your devices, and keep it charged! I bought one on Amazon for $35 about five years ago and it is still going strong. It can provide three full charges to a smart phone and one+ to an ipad. This is my go-to tool year round as it gives me instant charge when I can not be near an electrical outlet.

    Know your phone options. For instance, if you have a landline and your phones are electric, it’s a good idea to pick up a $10 wall jack phone and just store it. You may have phone service but not electricity, so it would be nice to keep the phone going. Also, if you have a cell phone or use automated voicemail on a landline, be sure to know if your phone has remote voicemail access or call forwarding. For instance, in the most recent hurricane, when we picked up our phone we had no dial tone for 10 days. However, we learned that for those calling it, it rang fine and went to voicemail. When we finally realized this had happened, we were able to remotely access our voice messages.

    Stock up before your storm season. In Florida, it’s hurricanes. In the North it’s blizzards. Numerous areas see tornadoes and need to stock their storm cellars. Or you may have floods. The point is that for temporary inconveniences or some major disasters, we can make preparations. Here in Florida, when we hit early Summer I am like a squirrel planning for winter. Every trip to the grocery store involves buying 1-2 more cases of water than we can drink. This year when the hurricane came in I didn’t find myself scrambling and unable to find water, but settled happily with enough water to see us through the 3-week power outage they were projecting.

    Other stock up items you’ll want before a storm is announced include batteries, lighters, wood or coal for furnaces, propane, gas cans if you have a generator, battery powered lanterns, a charcoal grill, glow sticks, a propane or butane burner (plus fuel), surge protectors, bug spray, fans, and an emergency kit. you can pretty much find some version of non-perishable food once a storm gets announced, but you could also keep a loaf of bread in the freezer, since it seems to always be the first thing to sell out. If putting up storm shutterers or boarding up is involved, have a cordless drill! Also, if you know you have to go to a safe spot, like a single room in your home or office, you might want to have air mattresses and a hand pump, or sleeping bags.

    Perform Equipment Checks. It’s important to begin thinking of your business equipment like an airplane — it needs regular flight checks! For instance, I might not have had a computer fire if I was regularly cleaning my computer. But here are some examples of things that can go wrong and even just make a MINOR disaster out of a single day:

    Keep a list of user names and passwords. It won’t help in a power outage but if you have to do a webinar and suddenly find yourself locked out of the system 15 minutes before, you are going to be scrambling and possibly miss your own important event. If you have this kind of list, you can’t accidently derail yourself with a simple error.

    Maintain software backups. I use Windows and Office 365 and I really like to put off updates. They like to try to happen once I am ready to get going for the day, so I frequently delay them. Don’t do this, or set it up to do auto updates at night! Not all that long ago my computer simply decided it was time and started a major update, which took four hours. It started 8 minutes before a major phone-based meeting and left me scrambling to remember the agenda that was on the computer! You can’t afford to lose access to your computer when you need to get work done!

    Periodically check status. Some programs, tools, and apps will simply stop working or work poorly if not regularly updated. For instance, did you know Carbonite will stop doing backups due to a glitch if you haven’t shut off and rebooted your computer in a while? In fact, when I was doing my system check prior to Hurricane Irma, I discovered that neither of my backups were working! Yikes! You have to stay on top of this stuff. Checking extends to battery backups and surge protectors too. Technology can fail you.

    Unplug before an event. If this is a storm you can prepare for and track, then when the time comes it is best to avoid power surges by unplugging computers and other major devices. Obviously, if you know flooding is involved, you would want to move anything critical to a safer (higher) location.

    Be Grab and Go Ready. There is nothing like an impending catastrophe to give you perspective on what is important. Before Hurricane Irma I prepared a suitcase of what we needed in the family room in case the second story was ripped off of the house or we had to evacuate fast. Above and beyond readiness supplies I grabbed:

    Personal: prescription medicines, toiletries, diamond ring, and enough underwear for a week + a few shirts and pants, swimsuit, socks, passport, and birth certificate.

    Professional: Into a secure plastic tub went my portable devices (Microsoft Surface and Ipad), my charged battery backup, my camera, my external hard drive, my hard copy calendar where I also record all sales (again, that double redundancy and being able to have that info if I had no power or internet), and my most recent tax records. Note that everything was put into a ziploc first for extra safety. If you haven’t done advanced notification of clients, you should also have a print list of those who are currently active with you in case you need to find a way to follow up.

    Perform Client Notifications When Possible. When you have advanced notice, as we did with Hurricane Irma, it’s important to be proactive. If you usually lose power in a storm or it is forecasted that you will lose power, cover your bases. With Irma, we were projected to have up to three weeks of power outages. I also reasoned that if it was that bad, we’d receive shipments of gasoline to stations within about 10 days and I could leave and be somewhere where I could run my business within two weeks. I made sure to do the following:

    • Post about the potential for outages on the top of my website’s Contact Us page.
    • Set up an email autoresponder notifying contacts of the potential for having no phone, internet, or power.
    • Send emails to my current clients to let them know what was happening, how it might impact upcoming engagements (sessions, coaching, classes) and to let them know how it would be handled.
    • Post to my social media groups and company pages with an alert.
    • Change voicemail on phone, if desired. I did not do this because we already have a message that asks callers to send an email for a faster response.

    Burn the Midnight Oil to Meet Commitments. Faced with three weeks of no power or internet, I opted to do what I felt had to be done to maintain my customer service standards. This meant one week of extra long days while I got projects done and put out curriculum content that was due over a three week period. It wasn’t fun or easy, but it left me with peace of mind that no matter what might happen, I was covered. On another angle of this, make not waiting until the last minute to do projects and commitments a way of life. The more organized you are, the better chance you have of setting up when this sort of situation hits.

    If time management is a tough one for you, here are some good resources: 5 Ways in 5 Days to Make Your Biz More Fabulous (Core Lesson) and Easy Steps to Your Best Year Yet (Core Lesson). Another good resource is the time management section of 10 Steps to a Competitive Edge in Your Life. This is broken into 10 lessons, but the link will take you to the first one.

    Have a Maintenance Contract with a Website Developer. So, I pay a website developer $75/mo to be on retainer for making sure my WordPress site is up-to-date. When faced with a long-term power outage, I needed to consider that while everything in CDI is automated, user error or WordPress update glitches can cause problems. Since my web developer is on the other side of the country, I was able to create a support email address for CDI that forwarded to her, and include it in the auto responder and emails to my clients. She in turn monitored emails and the website, ensuring everything was seamless. I can’t tell you how helpful this was to not have to worry that customers and prospects were well taken care of while we were off the Internet. All CDI staff are in Florida, but if you have a project manager or VA who isn’t in your geography, they could easily take on this process.

    On a slightly different note, we’ve had CDI members who were traveling or on sabbatical, who weren’t interested in using sub-contractors but who also wanted revenue in their absence. In each case they found a fellow member to partner with who they forwarded their phone to, or put a forwarding on their email to. This was in exchange for a 20% referral fee. With strong relationships and partnerships, you can get away by choice or by chance!

    PLEASE, Have Policies and Procedures That Can Be Picked Up. Going back to swine flu and CDI’s conference, I created checklists and policies and procedures for everything in my life and business that were critical enough for someone else to need to take over on if I was unable. Again, if you end up hospitalized, will someone be able to step in? It’s a good idea to have step-by-step instructions written up, printed, and put somewhere a trusted individual knows about, just in case.

    For my bill paying, I have a Word document that lists each bill to be paid, how it is paid (auto debit, mail, online) and where to access payment information.

    For my business, I have a few manuals which spell out what to do in case of an emergency. This includes where to find my current clients and their contact information, and what to tell them. It includes what documents will need to be accessed and exactly how to navigate to them on my computer. It includes login information for my email management system, and what to write if a broadcast email is required. It includes my website access as well with instructions on how to reach the contact page if an alert needs to be posted. It’s best to walk through the functions you might have to carry out in a given week and then make sure those are written out in easy-to-understand instructions. Then, go over those instructions with the responsible individual to make sure it makes sense to them. Too often we can make assumptions about what is second nature for us!

    Another plus of policies and procedures is that someday you might want to sell your business or hire a project manager or other staff/VAs. The more you document now, the easier this will be!

    Print This Checklist. When Hurricane Katrina struck, it caused so much damage. Member Nona Pratz survived and rebuilt after Katrina. She created a handy checklist called Disaster/Storm Preparation for Your Business that gives you important steps for before, during, and after a disaster. Again be proactive and check it out now.

    While this is a lot to think about, above and beyond the policies and procedures, many of these steps you will take once a year or simply make a regular ongoing part of your business. When you stay up-to-date, balanced, proactive, and planned, you can overcome anything! I should know as I’ve had more health emergencies (that my clients never knew about), been able to stop what I was doing when my mother twice had to be taken to the ER and supported, and survived many disasters, including two back-to-back hurricanes that left us without power for a collective 2 weeks in an approximately six week period.

    You don’t have to live on high alert and you don’t have to become the victim of an expected disaster. Be proactive now and you can be back up and running almost seamlessly (or perceived to never be interrupted in the first place).

    Additional Resources

    14 Ways Resume Writers & Career Coaches Can Thrive in Uncertainty >>

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