Business owner standing outside restaurant wearing a mask.
A catastrophe doesn't have to spell the end of your business, as long as you make a plan to recover from disaster. — Getty Images/Charli Bandit

It’s not always possible to avoid the business fallout of a disaster like a pandemic, earthquake or cybersecurity breach. But you can build a recovery plan that will get your business up and running ASAP.

[Read more: Steps for Applying for an SBA Disaster Relief Loan]

What is a small business recovery plan?

A recovery plan lists the processes and procedures you and your employees can follow after an emergency. By having a detailed plan in place, you’ll be able to open your business’s doors more quickly and minimize the economic damage.

For instance, if your company is the victim of a cyber breach, your recovery plan will help you:

  • Identify which key systems were targeted.
  • Shore up your cybersecurity defenses for those systems.
  • Start rebuilding relationships with clients or customers that were damaged due to the attack.
  • Hire new cybersecurity personnel to prevent the problem from happening in the future.

Here are five steps you can take to build an effective recovery plan for your business.

Audit your business resources

Your first step is to audit all critical business resources, including:

  • Equipment and other assets.
  • Perishable resources or products.
  • Staff members.
  • Property or real estate.
  • Small business insurance.

Once your audit is complete, you’ll know what your business stands to lose if it’s exposed to different types of emergencies. For instance, your business could sustain a lot of physical damage during a flood. But your business may suffer economic damage during a cybersecurity hack. Auditing your business resources will help you determine which areas of your business to focus on.

[Read more: Startup 2021: Small Business Insurance—What Do You Need?]

No matter what kind of disaster you encounter, it’s important to have a plan for communicating with your customers.

Prioritize your recovery efforts

Next, you need to figure out what systems or processes should be fixed before focusing on more minor problems. This step helps you determine which aspects of your business you should be focusing on and which factors can wait.

For instance, if you run a restaurant, you may want to prioritize:

  • Fixing your restaurant building.
  • Getting food vendor relationships established.
  • Ordering equipment.
  • Hiring staff.

Only after you’ve recovered all those systems can you turn your attention to things like marketing.

Set your recovery goals

Your recovery plan should also include a detailed breakdown of its scope and objectives. This helps you set realistic expectations for yourself and your staff.

For example, if you want to get your company back in business after a disaster, your recovery goals should be broken down into a reasonable timeline like:

  • Three months after the disaster: Rehire key staff.
  • Four months after the disaster: Establish vendor relationships.
  • Five months after the disaster: Begin accepting new contracts.

By setting expectations wisely, you’ll develop and keep a good pace during the recovery process.

[Read more: Roadmap for Rebuilding: Protecting Business Data and Assets]

Make a list of key employees

The next step is to figure out which employees are critical to your business functions. For instance, your IT team serves a crucial role in your business, while sales reps may not be necessary in the aftermath of an emergency.

When an emergency happens, you should immediately reach out to the employees and internal partners that can help keep your business running. No one can fully recover from a disaster on their own, so utilizing the right people will make your recovery efforts a lot smoother.

Communicate with your customers

No matter what kind of disaster you encounter, it’s important to have a plan for communicating with your customers. For instance, if your company was the victim of a security breach, you should let your customers know what happened and what steps you’re taking to mitigate the damage.

Make sure your customers know what’s going on and how to get in touch with you. It’s also a good idea to pick one employee to monitor your social media networks and answer questions.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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Published October 06, 2021