Have you ever been sick unexpectedly? Had an accident that prevented you from work? Was your business able to cope with your absence? I started to think long and hard about the process of my work years ago when I worked in Member Relations and Accounting at a country club as I prepared to go on maternity leave. I had taken on many tasks and knew the quirks of a tremendous amount, my goal was to leave my team as informed as possible so they needed to call me for nothing. I achieved my goal by documenting my job well and I’ll tell you how you can do the same. When you lose someone for a day, a week, or forever, you will be able to function just fine.

Legacy Management. Have everyone in your office track their day from beginning to end. Tape a piece of paper to your desk if you sit at one, that way it won’t fly off as you move things around. Every day for a week, track your tasks in chronological order. When you’ve written down all the tasks, describe how to do them in detail. Write it like someone is going to use your notes like a cake recipe to do your job. Include the instructions on how you turn the alarm system on and off, how to turn off the backup for the computer system, how to do a bank drop, details, codes, passwords, whatever your duties entail. When everyone has completed this, create a manual that is centrally located and alert the appropriate people as to it’s whereabouts. Due to it’s sensitive nature, everyone needn’t be privy but make sure several people know so that if one is out sick and the other gets hit by a bus, you’re covered.

Business Information. In that central manual you’ve created, it would be a good idea to include mission statement, contact information for boards or owners, insurance  policy with agent name, alarms, utility companies, staff list with contact info, and other emergency information. Provide a map of your location(s). List regular vendors and visitors (can be helpful in narrowing down theft).

Review Your Assets. You may very well have this information already recorded somewhere as a part of your insurance paperwork. Use that list or start one that inventories all your assets such as furniture, computers and other technology, vehicles, paperwork, and anything else that would need to be replaced in the event of a theft, fire, flood, hurricane, power surge or other physical disaster.

Cloud Computing. If you have a mobile or dispersed team, investigate the usefulness of cloud storage. Tools like Dropbox, Basecamp, Evernote, GoogleDocs and others give you the ability to work, share documents, and collaborate anywhere on the planet. With backup servers, these systems can sometimes be safer than your own. Have you updated your software, hardware, antivirus protection, or done a maintenance check recently? Not only does cloud computing provide offsite security (helpful in case of a natural disaster like a fire or flood that affects your  location), enhanced computing power, increased storage capacity, easier collaboration with location diverse teammates, they provide upgrades and maintenance of the larger system so you don’t need a large tech department. And the cost of these tools are quite affordable. Many start at free or very low cost and if you want enhanced features you pay more.

Cloud security is a valid area of concern. CloudLock, Cyber Ark, and Cipher Cloud are all tools that provide secure ways to partake of cloud services. LastPass will help you contain all of your keywords to one system. Just so you know, no system is perfect. Everyone gets hacked sooner or later (knock on wood). It’s just the way life is. There is no such thing as complete control. Even NASA got hacked 13 times in 2011. You can take appropriate steps to mitigate your risk. I’ve used so many computers (belonging to others) that were unprotected, out of date, the owners engaged in risky internet activities, and were generally unsafe. Just because you have your own server or LAN (local area network) doesn’t make your system safer than one on which you lease space.

Software-as-a-Service. This is a subcategory of cloud computing. Examples of how this would be useful to the efficiency of your operation is Google Voice or Skype for voice communications (both start at free and go up), Myfax for online fax (cuts down on paper, ink, cost of two machines and a dedicated phone line), Quickbooks online, Salesforce, and so many more. The cost each of these can drastically reduce your monthly budget. Not to mention eliminating the large amount of computer software licenses you will no longer need to have for your operation.

Mobile Security. Understand that a tremendous amount of sensitive information that is being accessed via mobile devices. How secure are they? Understand the risk your data is at when deploying mobile devices and allowing them to connect to sensitive data.

Website and Social Media Inventory. With the high use of internet tools in the workplace today, most managers don’t think to require login information from employees and staff. If you don’t have their passwords when they are out, think of the problems that could quickly spiral out of control. This is of the utmost importance in brand communications when using social media tools. Multiple admins on accounts such as Facebook pages and shared login information will help prevent damage when one “goes postal”. It used to be when someone was fired, they might sabotage a filing system or steal supplies. Now they can post the worst thing you can think of on a high profile site like Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. When they are let go, have them hand over their keys, remove their admin status, and change account passwords they had access to BEFORE THEY LEAVE THE BUILDING. Especially if you suspect the person will go off the rails or is ending on anything less than a happy note.

Social Media Sensitivity Training. Due to the relatively new web based tools we are working with, the majority of your staff may have had little exposure and be falling behind. You may need to invest in training in order to remain competitive. Don’t be afraid to invest in that training. Your business will benefit. If this is an area you need to explore, Kerry Rego Consulting specializes in social media and technology training for individuals and business. I’m here to help.

Employee Communications Policy. This policy won’t apply just to social networking or internet sites. This will cover phone, email, fax, letter, face to face, social media or other forms of communication your industry requires. Go through everything and write clear policy  about what is acceptable. Review this with your team. Check to see if you have a privacy policy on your website is up to date and accurate. Make sure you have one! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on the way personal information is collected. You will also need to be aware of and make clear your particular industry’s compliance needs.

Crisis Plan. Just like an emergency services department would do, go through the exercise of working offsite, doing someone else’s job, natural disaster reaction, and what you will do if/when your website or social media gets hacked. You have muscle memory and having done it once or several times will increase the ease with which you and your team are able to adapt to an emergency situation.

By reviewing your business in this thorough manner, you will be able to spot weaknesses in your supply chain, expenses that can be eliminated, and have an effective plan for action should a situation go awry.

[Image via 3Forward]

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