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Lessons in Preparedness from the Pandemic

By Jessica Larson,

If we learned nothing else from the pandemic (and we learned plenty), it’s the importance of being prepared. That doesn’t mean being ready for everything. But it does mean being ready for anything. And there’s a big difference.

We can’t predict the exact nature of the next crisis that will come our way, but we know one will come. And being ready to face it is the key to persevering — and succeeding — in business, as in anything else. We can look at some of the most common kinds of crises that occur, and make sure we’re ready to face them.

Since we’re coming out of a global health crisis, health is a good place to start. The pandemic not only impacted our physical health, but it also increased concerns among Americans about their mental health, as well.

Whether you’re talking about your personal life or your business, being prepared means doing what you can to stay in good condition. Pursue physical and mental wellness yourself, and encourage your employees by providing programs and support systems that help them balance their work and home lives.

Take regular breaks and encourage your employees to do so, as well. Get up and stretch at least once an hour during your workday — and that doesn’t mean just going to the snack machine, unless, of course, it’s stocked with healthy foods (that’s an idea worth pursuing).

Adequate exercise, a healthy diet, and consistent sleep patterns are important. Resist the urge to work into the wee hours of the morning, to load up on caffeine, or to “decompress” with alcohol before going to sleep.

Also, resolve not to contact employees via email or text (nor answer them yourself, if possible) during off-hours. Clear boundaries help reduce the risk of burnout, for yourself and everyone else.

Digital Security
More than ever, individuals and companies need to be aware of the threat of cybersecurity breaches like phishing and ransomware, and equip themselves, their systems, and their employees to avoid them.

Phishing is an attempt to obtain access to your personal information, such as bank account or Social Security numbers, through deception. This helps thieves steal your identity and/or plant ransomware — which allows them to hold your digital information hostage until you pay a ransom. What’s worse: If you pay the ransom, 80% of the time you’re liable to suffer a repeat attack.

To prepare for this kind of attack:

  • Back up all your files on an external hard drive.
  • Sign up for alerts from your bank that can flag and alert you to any suspicious account activity.
  • Be on the lookout for emails that might look legitimate but that you didn’t expect to receive, such as from companies you don’t normally do business with, especially if they claim that you owe them money.
  • Vary your passwords (don’t use the same one for every account), and make them high-security combinations that aren’t easy to figure out.
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, if possible.

You can run audits of your employees’ preparedness by sending out false phishing emails to see who opens them; then provide education and feedback to those who do. Let them know it’s not punishment, but a method to improve security and reward positive behavior, too.

One area where you’re almost sure to encounter a crisis at one time or another is transportation. According to one estimate, 77% of drivers have at least one accident, and the average driver has three or four of them during their lifetime.

Even if you’re not involved in a crash, chances are you’ll have to deal with a flat tire or overheated engine, or just plain run out of gas at some point. If you use multiple vehicles for company business, those chances increase with every vehicle in your fleet.

If you’re going out on the road, it’s important to have the proper levels of collision, personal injury, liability, uninsured driver, and comprehensive coverage for every car and driver. Weigh deductible costs against the risks and your budget in making those decisions.

Consider roadside assistance, too. It’s available through most insurance companies and can save you from being stranded on the road.

And no matter what, it’s a good idea to keep a vehicle emergency kit on board, including jumper cables, a jack and lug-nut wrench, antifreeze, a set of tools, flashlight, and other essentials. If you’re likely to encounter cold weather, add tire chains, cat litter (for extra traction), an ice scraper, and a blanket.

Getting prepared financially can seem like a tall order, especially when vast numbers businesses have struggled to survive the pandemic. Still, you’ll need to set aside resources and have avenues of funding available in order to remain nimble in the face of another broad-scale emergency.

Start by making or reviewing your budget for your business. Prices have gone up for essentials, like fuel, utilities, rent, and wages. You may need to reassess your pricing or service model to account for the extra expenses. The goal, of course, should be to pay all your bills, employees, and yourself and have some left over. Just like you would with your personal finances, you should set aside some of your net profits in an emergency fund for your business.

For small business owners, your personal credit is a major determining factor in your ability to borrow money. So, check your credit to find out where you stand. If your balances have increased as you’ve struggled to stay afloat during the crisis, it likely had a negative impact on your credit history. You can improve it by making your payments on time, catching up with any overdue bills, and using credit responsibly.

Of course, building or rebuilding your credit isn’t something you can do overnight, so the sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be — especially if you need it for an emergency or to pursue a major business opportunity.

When it comes to continuity and disaster response, an ounce of preparation really is worth a pound of cure. Preparedness won’t just get you through in a crunch; it also will make you feel more secure and confident in the here and now.

Continuity Insights

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