Q: Steve – We all think that “it couldn’t happen to me” but I am here to tell you that it can. We lost our business in Hurricane Katrina and I would just like everyone to know that it’s smart business to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Thanks for the platform.

Stan

A: Stan and I met earlier this year when I was giving a speech. When he learned that I write for USA TODAY, he really wanted to share his story and in the process help other small business owners avoid his unenviable fate.

Stan is an accountant who kept all of his records on the computer at his office. That included client tax returns, client lists, his own business records – the whole shebang. Unable to get to his office once the hurricane hit, Stan not only lost his data and computer in the disaster, but all physical files and other records too. He lost his entire business.

“Please, tell your readers to just take some basic steps that can ensure that their businesses can survive a disaster,” Stan insisted.

With the official start of hurricane season about a month away, it seems to be a good time to spread the message that, while no one likes to think about what can go wrong, it behooves us all to take some basic steps to avoid the avoidable.

Of course, it is not just hurricanes that are a threat to a business – it could be any number of other natural disasters – earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, fire – as well as personal disasters – a stolen computer, a hard drive that crashes (try losing three chapters of a book you are writing!), a power outage . . . .

Luckily, I was recently offered the chance to read a White Paper produced by HP and SCORE that sheds some light on not only what a significant problem this is, but what you can do about it. This White Paper was incredibly useful and has been shared with government officials and business leaders.

Consider these sobering facts:

• About one-third of all respondents to a survey in the paper said they backup their data rarely, if at all. Most of the rest did it less than monthly, and yet
• 70% of small businesses that suffer a major data loss will go out of business within a year.

But, as pointed out in the paper, “disasters can be averted with some foresight and planning.” Here is what you can do:

• Of course, the easiest and most obvious preventative measure you can take is simply to backup your data, and not just in the same location, but remotely.
• Important documents should be kept in a fireproof safe.
• Software should be utilized to prevent computer worms and viruses from destroying your hard drives.
• Create a plan to keep things running if something should happen. Assign roles and responsibilities as a part of that plan and walk through them with employees. Then keep the plan updated.

To underscore their commitment to helping small business in this regard, HP and SCORE have even taken things one step further and are now offering free “Wellness Workshops” around the country so as to better help small businesses prepare for unanticipated disasters and shutdowns.

According to Lisa Baker, Director of Business Marketing, Americas, Personal Systems Group, HP, “many small businesses are not prepared for disasters large and small. As such, through the Wellness Workshops, HP and SCORE are working together to ensure that small businesses understand the simple steps needed to safeguard a business’ survival.”

During the workshops, attendees will learn how to protect their core business assets such as employee records and customer databases. There will also be a special session on providing small businesses with guidance on how to green their business.

Hurricane Katrina was a tough lesson for too many small businesses. Let Stan, HP and SCORE help you help yourself. Create that disaster preparedness plan today.

Today’s tip:
The HP/SCORE Wellness Workshops are coming to a location near you. You can find out where and when here.

Preparing Your Business For The Worst

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