A Small Business Nightmare

small business fire catastrophe

The main business office of G. Bourne Knowles Tree and Landscaping business is destroyed in four alarm fire

Possibly my biggest fear as a human being and as a business professional is catastrophic fires that can obliterate photos and important documents in addition to life (I worry about pets in house fires and always ready to do the “Happy Dance” when I hear that a cat or dog has been rescued after a house burns down).

So the news yesterday about a longtime local family business experiencing the same was sobering.  The company, G. Bourne Knowles Tree and Landscaping, managed to save more current computer files however nearly all the paper records of the customers they have been working for, probably including details of what type of work was done and landscape plans, are now ashes.  That amounts to over 50 years of customer history, photos, and work plans and documentation of what the company did at each work site.

What if the staff at the company had NOT been at the site to spot the fire early and get the local fire departments (ended up being a four-alarm job) there, nor have staff there to grab the business’ computers?  The company is probably okay for the short-term in having outstanding accounts like receivables and vendor payments saved along with the computers, but that is small consolation when half a century of knowledge is gone.  The company principals, owner and son, are now relying on aging memory to reconstruct their client base of the past several years.

To avoid this scenario means embracing the newer technologies that are also a bit frightening in some folks’ minds, namely, putting your mission-critical data up in what is now known as “The Cloud”.  A more prosaic and costly solution is to buy removable hard drives and store them or backup files off-site on a regular basis.

Your Virtual Sherpa is making a 2013 resolution to become reasonably proficient in customer relationship management systems (CRM), especially cloud-based systems, like Salesforce, Infusionsoft, and BatchBook.  Implementing one of these systems with the Sherpa’s help may save a small business a huge challenge if its premises is suddenly destroyed by fire, water, wind or any other type of catastrophe.  Insurance may help rebuild physically, but the long-term memory of your business through a small business disaster recovery plan utilizing the latest technology may save your customer base, your institutional memory, and your sanity.