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Tip of the Week: Your business cannot afford to go without a disaster plan

July 6, 2010 at 2:06 a.m.


NEED MORE HELP?

Contact the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center, 3402 N. Ben Wilson St., at 361-575-8944, or visit www.sbdc.uhv.edu.

DO YOU HAVE BUSINESS QUESTIONS?

In addition to the weekly Tip of the Week feature, the Small Business Development Center will also begin soon a reoccurring Ask the Experts column. This is your chance to ask questions and have them answered in the Advocate.

E-mail your questions to Gabe Semenza, Advocate public service editor, at gsemenza@vicad.com, or Lisa Barr, a business advisor, at barrl@uhv.edu. Please type "Ask the Expert" in the e-mail subject line.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first installment of Tip of the Week, a weekly feature written by University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center advisors. The feature aims to help small business owners.

How do I continue my business after a disaster?

With hurricane season in full swing, the University Of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center is asked this question frequently. As an advisor, I have made the rounds in our communities and given disaster preparation and business continuity seminars in conjunction with the chambers of commerce.

In case you missed the seminar in your area, let me give you some tips on how to prepare your business for a disaster. Please remember: A disaster is not only a hurricane. It could be a flood, tornado, fire, loss of a computer and/or hard drive, computer virus, loss of key staff, etc. It is vital for the success of your business that you have a business continuity plan.

Eighty percent of businesses do not resume operations within the first month after a disaster because they did not have a continuity plan, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

To prepare your business you must take care of your family first. Once your home is ready for a disaster then you can focus on your business.

Much like a fire drill you did in school, when you develop a plan, you must organize and equip your business to handle the plan. You have to train your employees, do practice drills and evaluate and improve the plan. We suggest you have a disaster drill every six months. Just think: If it's time to buy fireworks, it's time to do your business disaster drill.

STEPS TO GET YOU STARTED

Identify critical business functions and key staff. What needs to happen to keep your business operating?

Prepare a list of contact information for your key vendors/suppliers, customers and employees.

Prepare an alternative list of key vendors/suppliers in case a disaster prevents them from serving your business.

Backup your computer hard drive on a portable, external hard drive or online backup service.

Place three years of past tax returns and financial statements in a safe, safe deposit box or waterproof container you can access after the disaster. This information is needed in case you need to apply for SBA Business Disaster Recovery Loans and federal help to get you back in business.

Know how your city prepares for disasters and the processes it takes to restore needed utilities for your business. Contact your local office of emergency management or city hall.

Ask your insurance agent about what coverage your business has and needs. Do you have business continuity insurance or lost income replacement insurance? Insurance on key staff? Flood, wind, fire?

Use free websites, such as www.DisasterSafety.org, www.AllSafeMart.org and www.DisasterHelp.gov to help you with writing a business continuity plan.

You also may contact us at 361-575-8944 and learn when our next seminar is or to simply seek help from one of our advisors. Just get started.

As George Patton once said, "A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow." Your business cannot afford to go without one.

Lisa Barr is a certified senior business advisor with the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center. Tip of the Week publishes once a week.

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