“Disaster preparedness” sounds dry, even dull … until your business takes a major hit from circumstances beyond your control. The sudden devastation shakes you to the core. What do you do?

According to The Gartner Group, an IT industry consulting firm, four out of ten businesses hurt by disaster never get back on their feet. Two out of ten more go out of business within two years after a catastrophic event. The numbers are even more staggering for small and micro-businesses.

Ironically, smaller companies and home-based businesses are in a better position to recover quickly – if they’ve taken a few steps in advance to prepare. You can’t stop the force of nature. But you can keep your business from becoming another statistic!

Here are three fundamentals to greatly increase the odds that your small business will survive a disaster:

1. Back up your data. Computer files and sensitive papers are irreplaceable once they’re destroyed. If you work at home, copy your files daily and place the back ups and important papers in a fire- and water-resistant safe. Most small businesses don’t do this! But you must if you intend to quickly resume operations after the moment passes. If possible, keep your back ups in a separate location from your office.

2. Insure what you can’t afford to lose. This usually elicits a “sure … right!” from home-based business operators, especially early in their new careers. But can you afford to pay the replacement costs yourself? Also, make sure to keep updating your inventory and equipment list so that you can later prove your claim. Keep that list in your safe as well.

3. Network to cover your customers during your down-time. Make friends with other business owners who provide the same services that you do. Contrary to popular belief, you will likely gain your customers’ loyalty by helping them meet their needs elsewhere until you’re back in service. And if you think about it, they’ll have to go elsewhere anyway while you’re putting things back together!

These three steps – backing up your data, insuring what you can’t afford to lose, and networking with other service providers – will protect your business from most unnecessary harm due to disaster. They won’t cover everything but they will get you to “higher ground” if the unthinkable happens.

You can’t plan for everything. But most businesses that succumb to catastrophe do so because they missed the basics. The terrible moments always pass. Will your business still be standing?

(For more information on preparing your business for surviving and recovering from disaster, please see the expanded article series at the website listed below.)

(c) 2005 Michael Riley. All rights reserved.
Michael Riley is a freelance business writer and editor specializing in trade press and association publications. His website includes expanded coverage of this topic, as well as information on marketing your small business and improving customer relations. http://www.bymichaelriley.com