Continuity planning isn’t just for the big boys. Small business owners, freelancers and other solo professionals need to have a Plan B so they can maintain their income and continue supporting their clients if they are unable to work for a period of time or have their lives disrupted in some way.
This is a hot topic for me these days, as I prepare to enter the hospital to have my third child. Because he has special needs and will need surgery right after birth, we are anticipating being away from home for at least two weeks, but the unknowns are overwhelming. So I need a rock-solid plan to make sure my work gets done, my clients are taken care of and nothing falls through the cracks.
Unfortunately, you never know when something might happen that will make you unable to work, even for a short period of time. If you aren’t prepared, you could face consequences that hurt your livelihood for years to come. I am fortunate because I have a heads up about what we will be facing and a loose idea of how much work I will be able to do, but many times you can’t anticipate these challenges. The only way to manage crises effectively is with a standing business continuity plan.
Here are the key elements of my plan, most of which are universal. Hopefully it will give you a good starting point if you have not created a continuity plan for yourself yet.
I have several excellent subcontractors, and they know who my clients are, the work I do and how to contact them, if necessary. One of my subcontractors has taken a primary role and will be kept up-to-date on all of my open projects before I leave. She has access to my passwords, client information and other vital data to keep things moving in my absence.
As I take on new work, I create process documents specific to each client. Some are formal documents that I end up sharing with the client, others are more informal notes that I keep in my project management software. The key is to have the who, what, when, where and why for each client in writing, somewhere that’s accessible to your support team. This way, someone else can pick up and continue work on a project when necessary and know exactly what they should be doing.
Because I’ve known for months that I will be out of the office for a while, I’ve had plenty of time to communicate the situation to my clients and team. But if this is an unexpected event, you will need a plan for communicating with everyone who needs to be in the know. Having a ready-to-go email list can be helpful so you can send a quick message and get everyone up to speed at one time. It’s also important to have a plan for keeping clients and your team updated during the situation so they know what’s going on and when they can expect you back.
There will likely be a number of files that your team will need to access in order to fill in for you. If you already have your data backed up on a secure and accessible system, you’re ahead of the game. You would just need to create a directory with the necessary files and give your team access. I use my project management system to collect working files, process documentation and client information so everything is in one place. And I can assign access as necessary.
Those are the main components of my business continuity plan, and I’ve found that once these factors are taken care of, the rest tends to fall into place. What elements make up your continuity plan? Do you feel confident everything will continue moving along if you’re unable to work?
Image credit: Vangelis Thomaidis