I was recently introduced to a web application called ifttt, or “if this then that”. The premise is that you give it some conditions, and it automates tasks for you. Some examples include “If I take an Instagram photo, save a copy in my Dropbox” or “If the forecast is for rain, send me an email to let me know”.
While something like this is certainly a timesaver, it’s extremely beneficial for your business if you extended it even further, to plan for things that could negatively affect your business. This is contingency planning, and can reduce wasted time and panicky decision making with something big, complex and unexpected drops into your lap.
Also, while most contingency plans are couched in terms of disaster-handling, I think it’s valuable to plan for welcome surprises as well. The better prepared you are, the quicker you can take advantage of an opportunity.
First, think of some situations that are perhaps improbable but possible. Bad situations would include a flood or power outage at your workspace, your production team calling in sick or quitting, or a family emergency that keeps you away from work for an extended period of time. Good situations might include getting a giant wholesale order that you are not sure you can fill, having samples called in by a magazine but having no samples in stock, or getting a great mention on a television show that sends everyone to their computers that might push your website to overcapacity.
Questions to ask yourself when planning for these situations include:
Who will be affected? What tasks do they normally perform and what tasks are they capable of performing? What is the best way to reach them?
What legal documents might be in play? This could be a lease agreement, partnership agreement, photography rights or a vendor contract.
Are there external dependencies? If so, have you identified backups? If your normal supplier has run out of materials, do you know who else carries what you need?
Once you know the answers to these questions, it’s time to put them together into a step-by-step plan of action. Review the plan with everyone so there is no doubt about execution, and store your document somewhere that is easily accessible. Finally, revisit your plans every so often to make sure they are up to date and still relevant to your situation.
Good luck with planning! Do you have any systems in place in case disaster (or fortune) strikes?