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it's important for businesses to have a contingency plan

Continuity Planning for Startups

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This is a guest post by Lyle Deitch, the Founder and CEO of Parachute360. Parachute360 is “Life Insurance for Small Businesses”, providing a suite of digital and monetary insurance products to protect small business owners and their stakeholders from the impacts of disruption.

Whatever stage of development your business is in, one thing is for certain – it matters a whole heck of a lot to you.  And as you grow, it matters a whole heck of a lot to other people too. Yet so many business owners neglect to plan for any level of human uncertainty.  Last-minute disruptive events like vacations, employee or spousal illness, jury duty (gasp!) can all throw a growing business into disarray and severely impact stakeholders when the knowledge upon which business run isn’t institutionalized. And the sudden permanent loss of a key knowledge holder can devastate an unprepared business.  

No one likes to think about business disruption. It’s not fun. Selling stuff is fun. Building stuff is fun. Company happy hours are (sometimes) fun. Continuity planning? Not so much. But if Covid has taught us anything it’s that anything can happen. So be prepared.  

A Business Continuity Plan Makes Small Businesses More Valuable and Scalable

Continuity planning is arguably even more important for smaller companies than for larger ones. There is just so much less room for error and fewer bodies and resources to throw at solutions. And while it’s not fun, it’s also not difficult – and done well it can make your business more valuable and easier to scale.

So where to begin? In its purest form continuity planning is simply good business – it’s about having processes in place to run your business rather than people. It’s also about recording the most important information about your business in the most actionable format and securely democratizing that data. Finally, it’s remembering that the writer of the processes and plans is not the audience – someone else that doesn’t know that person is. 

The easiest way to take the first steps is to put yourself in the shoes of an acquirer. If an acquirer wanted to buy your company tomorrow – but all of your employees (including you) magically disappeared to a (really awesome and fully stocked) desert island overnight, would they still want to buy it? Would they know how to run it? Would they know how to contact your PPC guru, your bookkeeper, or get into your CRM? Would they even know what CRM you use? 

If the answer is no then not only would then you’ve got work to do – and your business is far less valuable than it would be if all of the answers were a resounding “yes”.

How to Get Started on a Plan to Avoid Business Interruption

There are volumes written about how to create systems and processes and endless bodies of work that define the difference between the two. But at the risk of being pedantic, just start by writing down critical business Steps and Tasks. 

Steps are really high-level business functions such as “Collect Time Sheets” or “Log in to (payroll provider) ADP.com”.  Tasks are the specific actions required for team members to execute the Steps. Pretty simple. Whether you type up an MS Word Document or record how you do what you do on a yellow legal pad, getting started is the hardest part. But once you have gone through that effort, next gather and record the most important information about your key people, customers, vendors, banking and subscription accounts, assets, and liabilities. The important stuff – the stuff that matters. Like, you know, phone numbers and emails, user names and passwords, etc.  

Continuity Planning is an Ongoing Process

Remember that continuity planning is ongoing. None of this needs to be done in a day. This is a continuous journey to record how you do what you do. Take it slow and make sure your staff participates by recording how they do what they do too!

So how do you know when you’ve done enough? You run annual simulations. You take people out of their roles for a week and assign their key tasks to others to perform based on your written instructions and institutionalized knowledge. And you score the results. Low scores = weak spots. High scores = job well done.  

By bulletproofing your business in this manner, you are providing a more stable work environment and peace of calm for you and all of your stakeholders. It’s time to get started. 

About The Author
Lyle Deitch is the Founder and CEO of Parachute360. Parachute360 is “Life Insurance for Small Businesses”, providing a suite of digital and monetary insurance products to protect small business owners and their stakeholders from the impacts of disruption.

Prior to launching Parachute360, Lyle operated Parachute Advisors a turnaround advisory and succession planning firm.  In his role helping troubled businesses, Lyle saw many companies that were impacted deeply by not having a secure and actionable repository for small business operating data and intelligence, leading to the creation of Parachute360. Lyle holds a BS in Commerce from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the University of Oxford. 

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