I for one, will never forget the images of one of America’s beloved cities, New Orleans drown in water after Katrina. The low lying areas were flooded after the levee broke. What resulted was a massive displacement of people – some lost everything as a wall of water completely enveloped their homes. Many people took shelter at the Super dome. Unfortunately, this structure was not designed to handle such large numbers for days on end and, in a short time, the super dome came to symbolize the inept response of the federal, state and local governments.
How could things go so wrong in a country that is regarded the world over as the only remaining super power? I am sure there are many version of what went wrong and what worked, but for the folks trapped before any rescue effort reached them, it must have seemed their government forgot them. The government bumbled, while private enterprises managed to find a way to deliver much needed relief to New Orleans.
Some of the worst effected were small businesses. Many of them did not have business continuity plans and the rising water washed away their hard work and dreams. I happened to speak to a couple that owned a business in the affected district. They never imagined such a calamity would befall them. Their entire life dream was in their business and they were not prepared. All their business information was on the hard drive of their desk top at the place of business (no backup). Sunk. They did not know who owed them money, orders they had to fill or other critical data. While some of their old customers found them and paid outstanding bills, their 25 year old business folded. Both of them wistfully remembered they spoke about writing a business continuity plan. They never got around to it. Not an uncommon story. Many of us postpone this activity thinking that such a calamity will not befall us. Wrong. None of us can be sure.
I woke up after this event. While I am pretty good at keeping on top of things, some things slipped by unnoticed. I took immediate corrective action. Even if you do not have a business, plan for emergencies. Ask yourself what would happen if you in the middle of such an event? Do you have an emergency supply of food and water? Do your kids know where to go and whom to call? Now imagine a business without plans. What do you expect will happen to them?
Planning and refining the plan is not an intrusion on business, rather an investment in time to ensure longevity of the business. The plan must be easy to understand and have everyone on board – workers and management. Drills to check the robustness of the plan is recommended.
The Boys Scouts pithy motto “Be Prepared” rings so true. Act now to avoid tears later.