Business continuity. . . Disaster recovery. . . .are you prepared

For the 33 years that I operated my own funeral home I was a lot like a lot of you out there.  I was so busy dealing with families, making sure that funerals were done correctly, and, just basically, operating the business on a day to day basis that long -range planning sometimes went by the wayside.

To be fair, I was pretty good at long-range planning that dealt with budgeting and marketing.  However, there were issues that I probably should have addressed more in detail and just never did.  Those were issues of Business Continuity  – not succession planning, but a continuity plan if some physical force moved you out of your building for a time being.  The other issue was that of Disaster Recovery — a plan that took into consideration the technology your firm used to operate the financial and client records of your business.

I kept a lot of my plan in my head — basically that Business Continuity would move forward by using churches for visitations and funerals and the Disaster Recovery was handled simply by backing up the computer records onto a disk at night and putting that disk into a file cabinet.  I was pretty lucky that we never had a fire, tornado, flood, or other disaster, because when you look at my plan. . . . we really were not very well prepared.

The Grand Forks flood of 1997

To be honest, I started my career in 1980 and we had all paper records.  Generally, we locked the financial records in a fire proof safe every night and that was our extent of prevention in the case of financial documents such as Accounts Receivable.  Moving into a more technological world, I still wasn’t aware of safeguarding things until the Grand Forks (ND) Flood of 1997.  That flood, of the Red River of the North, consumed downtown Grand Forks and the first floor and basements of every business for more than a square mile lost valuable documents.  Then came the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and we listened to many New York City firms tell of their problems with record keeping.  It was the first time from those firms that were prepared, that I had heard of a second location for technological safeguards. . . a good idea that we started to learn from.

I thought of all of this when I received an email from Clifton Larson Allen as I periodically do.  This email was about “Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery” and proved to be a sensible reminder to me that, as small business owners, our financial future might some day depend on how well we have put an actionable plan into place.  You can read the Clifton Larson Allen article here.

The Clifton Larson Allen article defines the situations in this manner:

  • Business Continuity — Critical business functions
  • Disaster Recovery — Technological infrastructure

While I tried to keep portions of this type of plan in my head, I believe that in today’s business world that is not adequate.  If you own or manage a funeral home I think this planning is something that you should do and some of those thoughts might include in the case of building loss to fire, flood, or other disaster:  Where could we do embalming and body prep, where would we do cremations. . . and how do these decisions affect what we would charge client families if we are not giving the service in our facility.

In addition, you should immediately know that your technology files are kept in two separate physical or cloud locations and you should think about making pre-arrangement service files in electronic formats as well as in the paper formats that you now keep in your funeral home business offices.  What about accounts receivables?  How are those up-to-date amounts secured?

The article from Clifton Larson Allen should be a must read if you own or operate a business in this day and age. . . especially where a technology breach, even if unintended, could cause your firm to lose all of its digital and electronic information.  The article goes through the steps that should be taken. . . .at a minimum, I would recommend these four steps to everyone:

  • Risk Assessment of business disruptions and/or technology disaster
  • Business Impact Analysis of a disaster
  • Plan Development
  • Plan Maintenance

Don’t overlook your business insurance coverage also to make sure you have covered what you want covered in the case of a business disruption or technology disaster.

Finally, make sure you take the time to do this assessment and plan.  You don’t want to have to find out, but the right plan for the potential issues at hand, will be a God send if or when needed.

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