How to Protect Your Business from Unexpected Events

Updated: Dec 25, 2019

protect business from unexpected events

Disruptive events can occur when you least expect them to. It’s not only about finding a ten-dollar bill on the sidewalk or getting stuck with your car on the side of the road. For businesses, the unforeseen can mean halting operations for days, or worse, put you out of work for weeks. This can have a direct affect on your customers - forcing them to look for other solutions and leave for good. For everything from fire drills to snow days to internet connection issues, companies need to be prepared with solutions, fast.

The good news is, we live in a world where messages can be delivered in an instant. Readily available tools, such as a laptop and supported help desk software, can be used to assist customers whenever and wherever you are. With the right protocols, clear communication and back-up, here are a few real-life examples and tips on how to respond and recover quickly from an unexpected event.

Evaluate the risks

No matter what kind of business you’re running, be it drop-shipping or a website builder platform, planning for the “what if” moments is critical. In legal terms, these ‘Acts of God,’ also called ‘Force Majeure’ include natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and fires - many of which are beyond our control. But it’s not only nature that has a funny way of unexpectedly crashing into our lives. Risks can be financial, such as inadequate cash flow or PR scandals. These alone can have a devastating impact on the well-being of your customers and company.

For example, in 2011, Thailand experienced extreme flooding during its monsoon season. As a result, big name companies such as Toyota and Canon suspended production, reduced operating profits and experienced a decrease in sales. Therefore, it is crucial to think about the consequences before they even happen. Bottom line: You may not be able to prevent it, but you can prepare for it.

To identify the possible hazards, the first step is to carry out a risk assessment of your business. This process will help you to identify any possible threats, the effects and what protocols to take to minimize any danger in the future. When you recognize risks based on levels (e.g. low, medium, high) you’ll have a better idea of how to tackle them head on. It’s recommended to conduct this type of assessment on an annual basis, no matter what size or type of company you run. This will ensure overall success and prevent any unforeseen surprises for your business and customers.

The illustration below is a decision matrix to use for categorizing risks based on severity (minor to major) and frequency (common or uncommon). For instance:

  • Major severity and rare frequency: A natural disaster (e.g. earthquake, hurricane, fire)

  • Minor severity and common frequency: Technical issues (e.g. internet outage, water leaks)

risk assessment matrix template

This simple diagram should give you a general idea of how specific risks can impact your business, and the probability of them happening.

In parallel to creating your risk assessment matrix, ask essential questions that will help you recover by allowing you to structure your scattered thoughts in an orderly fashion. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What needs to be done to get your business up and running?

  • How long will it take for your business to be back?

  • Has your business reputation been affected?

  • Can your team work remotely? If not, is there a safe space you can work from?

  • Was any property (computers, documents) damaged by this event? Is your data backed up?

Create an informative and detailed plan for your employees

Based on your risk assessment, you’ll derive possible hazards that could have a significant impact. From here, the next step is to create a business emergency plan with clear, detailed instructions for every possible situation. Afterward, swiftly align your employees with the