Preparing for the Worst
A few years ago it was avian flu; currently swine flu is the most visible threat. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that regardless of the form it takes, we are in danger of encountering a pandemic reminiscent to the one experienced in 1918 where nearly 50 million people died. Whether it be this year or next, or maybe even 5 to 10 years into the future, such a threat might cause travel bans, fear of sickness or contagion, possible quarantines and widespread illness, all of which could severely damage a small business if caught unawares.
If that were to happen, how would your business fair? Are you prepared to respond to such a threat, and would your practice continue to function even in the worst of these circumstances? Here are four questions you might ask to determine how ready you are:
1. Have you encouraged employees to stay home when feeling ill?
Many employees are willing to suffer through illness at work, and often it’s the employers who encourage such behavior. Unfortunately, that’s the perfect environment for a pandemic, where the infected population intermingles with the uninfected. In this scenario, it won’t take long before the entire office is sick and out of commission. To prevent widespread illness in your office, it’s important that you encourage employees to stay home when they’re feeling sick. While this may seem to threaten productivity, especially during flu season, it will ultimately save you money in the end, with fewer overall employee absences.
2. Have you made good personal hygiene a priority?
The WHO reminds us that personal hygiene can go far in helping us avoid sickness. Frequent hand-washing can ensure that harmful germs never invade the body in the first place. You can make this a priority by ensuring that your office stocks plenty of antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer. And like most professional establishments, you can even include a reminder over your bathroom sink that employees properly wash their hands after using the restroom.
3. Do you have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), also known as a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)?
You may never need to use it, but having a BCP can help your business successfully endure most disasters, including a pandemic. Things to include on your BCP are personnel who perform daily necessary functions, employees who could telecommute, critical business documents, and a contingency location should your business become inaccessible. Once you have a plan in place, you can test it to see how well it works and determine what needs to be altered.
4. Are your clients prepared to interact with you during a potential crisis?
An accounting practice is simple to manage from home. If you’ve already devised a process through which clients can transmit necessary information to you electronically, chances are you could continue to work through even the worst-case scenario of swine flu. If not, you should device such a process now. Not only will it enable your business to plow through a pandemic, but it could make your current procedures more productive and efficient as well.
When it comes to topics like this one, it can be difficult to find a group of small business owners with whom you can ask questions, share insights, and offer advice. Luckily there are online discussions groups, listservs and forums to help you connect with these individuals. Universal Accounting Center has developed a forum for accountants and tax preparers to provide just that community environment you may have been searching for. Please join us and make our community stronger, and to “talk” about issues that matter to you. Members are free to ask questions, provide resources and take advantage of the resources others may offer. Join us today!