Ten Tips to Prepare Your Business in Case of Emergency
Written by: Nancy Harris, vice president and general manager at Sage Simply Accounting
Flooding, forest fires and even mudslides – like those that recently happened in eastern British Columbia – can unfortunately be a frequent occurrence in various Canadian regions leading up to and during the summer months. These situations take both an emotional and financial toll on those who live and do business in those areas. However, such events are proof of the strength of those who are able to overcome such chaos and serve as a reminder that it’s important to be as prepared as possible for adversity.
A recent study of Canadian small businesses owners conducted by Sage North America showed that Canadian businesses may not be sufficiently prepared for a crisis. While 98 per cent of respondents said they back up their financial data, 71 per cent of surveyed owners said they do not have a formal emergency or disaster preparedness plan in place. Respondents cited that they haven’t had any issues in the past that influenced the decision to develop a plan (41%), they hadn’t thought about it (33%) or they don’t think it’s important for their business as reasons for not having a plan.
Although some companies may believe they are not at risk for disaster, it is crucial to always prepare for a worst case scenario. Below are a few tips for small businesses to consider – a starting point to help prepare for, deal with and overcome an emergency situation.
- Develop a basic emergency plan – Outlining the main issues your business could potentially face and the actions that you would need to take to prevent and/or resolve crisis situations will give you a great advantage if an emergency does occur. Research government agency or business association websites, such as the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness, for resources and strategies to deal with both natural and manmade disasters.
- Educate and prepare your staff – For the plan to be fully successful, your employees must be aware of the procedures it describes. Only share sensitive information in the plan with those who need to know it, but do share general actions and perform emergency drills and exercises. The more prepared they are for an emergency, the more they will be able to help your business respond and recover from such a situation.
- Designate an emergency point person – It is essential that more than one person knows critical information such as passwords or the location of important documents. Select a trusted person who can implement the emergency plan, handle financial or legal matters, or recover information in the event that you are unable to do it.
- Back up essential data – Whether you choose an on-site system, an off-site server or the cloud, backing up your information could be the difference between emergency recovery and the end of your business. Backups should be performed a few times a week and whenever you upload a large amount of information. If you live in tornado-, hurricane- or earthquake-prone regions, an off-site server or the cloud may be your best option. Make sure you choose a solution with a strong brand that has a proven track record for providing secure systems. Your accounting software provider, like Sage, can be a good source.
- Develop a business continuity plan – After developing an emergency plan, your team should know what their responsibilities are and how to react should those circumstances arise. But what happens after the emergency situation happens? How do you keep your business running while you’re still recovering from the effects of an event? This is where a business continuity plan comes into play. It is a proactive plan that ensures that operations continue during a disruption.
- Create an exit strategy – The Sage survey found that 57 per cent of small businesses do not have an exit strategy. Although you may think this step is not essential to your business, defining an exit plan may save you trouble in case of an unforeseeable situation.
- Have a lawyer available – Hiring an attorney has become an important part of doing business. A lawyer can help guide and protect you through the legal aspects of preventing or solving an issue, such as an accident in your facilities or a product recall.
- Invest in prevention –Whether it is the installation of a security system or a waterproof safe, investing now may save you thousands if and when a crisis hits.
- Get insurance – Although insurance may be costly and seem unnecessary for a rare, potential event, you’ll be glad your business is covered if the situation does arise. The best return on insurance is no return at all.
- Consult with a professional – If you are unsure about how to identify the potential issues that your business needs to be prepared for, or how to plan for recovery, it’s a good idea to speak with a business consultant. A professional will not only be able to recognize possible crises you may not have considered, but also inform you of the best solutions for your type of business.
Life is full of unexpected events. The more you prepare your business for potential emergencies, the easier and cheaper it will be for your business to recover.
SEE RELATED STORIES FROM THE WDM CONTENT NETWORK:
- CIBC Poll Reveals 45% of Canadians Don't Have Emergency Savings
- Key Tips to Keep Your Employees Motivated
Nancy Harris is vice president and general manager for Sage’s Simply Accounting business. Nancy is responsible for driving the strategic and product direction for Sage Simply Accounting and oversees key functional areas including sales and marketing and research and development. A primary focus of her role is strengthening relationships with and cultivating an exceptional customer experience for Sage’s small business customers, partner channels, accountants and bookkeepers.
Prior to joining Sage, Nancy held several leadership roles in SaaS-based software solutions companies where she was responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations, specifically in the areas of client services, marketing, product management and product development.
Nancy holds Master and Bachelor of Science degrees from Northwestern University.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.