Emergencies happen to everyone throughout life, often without warning. For a small business, the solution to this is often purchasing insurance to protect against crises like robberies or natural disasters. But what happens when the emergency is a little more personal to the owner – like a sickness or family death – calling for them to step away for a time?

Here are five steps to follow as a small business owner to help keep your business afloat without you in the case of an emergency.

1)    Have a Backup Employee

The first step is to train an employee you trust how to take over your duties for you, if necessary. Teach them all the methods you use to keep the business running, and be sure to let all your other employees know who’s second-in-command should you ever need to step away for a bit.

However, “you need to be able to teach that person all of your procedures and operations without worry that that person is going to steal your business from you,” Lisandra Pagan, a business contingency plan consultant, says. And a solution can often be found by binding that employee to a non-compete or confidentiality agreement contract.

2)    Create a Business Bible

Once you’ve chosen your backup employee, write out a business “bible” that specifies in extreme detail the steps of your business operations throughout the day, week, and month. Everything should be in there, from passwords to vendor names, so that throughout your absence the employee can be prepped for whatever the day may throw at them – meaning less questions for you, while ensuring the business continues to run smoothly.

A good way to start creating this bible is to write down notes while you’re going about your job, listing steps to procedures and anything that your employee may need to know.

3)    Designate an Emergency Contact

In case you’re incapacitated and can’t notify your backup employee yourself, designate an emergency contact like a spouse or family member who can tell the backup employee that they’re in charge for you.

Be sure they know where your business bible is, and that all parties are aware that your emergency contact speaks for you.

4)    Practice

Any emergency plan you come up with is no good unless you know it works, so practice it often before you have need to use it. Step away for a few days and let your backup employee get used to their function as second-in-command, while testing that all the information needed is in your business bible.

If there are any wrinkles or problems, simply find solutions and implement them into the plan.

5)    Review Your Plan

Systems change and businesses evolve with time, and so too should your emergency plan. Be sure to review your business bible every now and then to ensure it’s up to date, while practicing any additional changes you may add along the way.

For Sole Proprietors…

Are you a sole proprietor without employees to take over for you? Consider a backup plan of:

  • Asking your emergency contact to notify your suppliers and clients that you’re temporarily incapacitated – storing contact information where they’ll know to find it;
  • Employing a friend you trust who’s in the same industry to temporarily take over the business for you while you’re away, handling crucial client work;
  • Creating video, vocal, or written instructions detailing how to complete a project in the event a family member, spouse, or friend needs to take over for you for a time; or
  • Training your Virtual Assistant (if you have one) to act as your emergency backup employee in your stead.

No matter the size of your business, if it’s your pride, joy, and income, you need to protect it. Ensure that your bases are covered (and that you can get the time you need to recover), by having an emergency plan in place for your business.

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