Yes, this will be yet another piece that talks about the recent hurricane that ravaged the Northeast. My payroll service company serves thousands of clients; tens of thousands of people are dependent on their paycheck to get back on their feet. We see our business the connection between small businesses and the economy. We are a vital link to keep cash flowing and we take disaster planning seriously.
We are a small business ourselves, but we have always thought big. With that in mind we have had a business continuity plan in place since the beginning. It’s a plan that any Fortune 500 company would be proud of and it worked seamlessly during Hurricane Sandy. Here is a brief synopsis of how we dealt with the challenges we faced last month. I certainly hope that there is information in my notes that you’ll find helpful in implementing at your own business.
Friday October 26, 2012
We activated our BCP (Business Continuity Plan). With the storm coming, we did not leave anything to chance. We communicated with our back-up facility and began our emergency communications with clients. We gathered and updated our emergency phone greeting scripts, email blasts and our website so our clients would know what was happening with their payrolls.
Saturday October 27, 2012
A conference call was scheduled with our back-up facility to make sure they were prepared to handle phone calls and emails from our clients. Fortunately, they were ready to go and staffed appropriately to help. We again updated our phone greeting, website and sent an email blast to our clients with the alternate phone numbers and contact information for our off-site facility. We were prepared to be in back-up mode for as long as necessary since we had no idea how long power may be disrupted.
Sunday October 28, 2012
Our VP of operations also serves as our point person for the BCP process and she made sure all correspondence went out to clients and staff members. We have a phone list with personal emails and phone numbers of all our employees, so when we made the decision to come into the office Monday morning she was able to reach out to all our employees. She notified them that we would be opening the office at 8am as usual but to be prepared to be finished by 12pm so people could get home safely.
Monday October 29, 2012
We contacted as many clients we could via telephone to process their payroll early so we could make sure they were processed on time. We had great success getting through to our clients and many early payrolls were processed. We had the files/data sent to our back up facility for printing to mitigate any possibility of the power going out in the middle of printing runs. By noon we had left the office and the storm raged all afternoon and late into Tuesday morning.
Tuesday October 30, 2012
Most of our employees were without power and incapable of making it to work on Tuesday due to the damage in their neighborhoods and the debris on the roadways. For the safety of staff, we decided to keep the office closed. Our back-up facility processed payroll as if we had been in the office and even fielded client calls from those that actually had power or cellular service.
Tuesday afternoon I personally went to the office to assess any damage. I also communicated with our technology company to see if we lost power and to check on the status of our servers. We did lose power, but only for a short time, and fortunately our servers were online as were our phones and email. We have what is called three phase electrical power at our facility; while only two were working, we were still fully up and functional by the end of Tuesday.
We communicated with employees and clients via email, website updates, and social media that we would be open at our location on Wednesday and that clients should cease contacting our back-up location.
Wednesday October 31, 2012
Almost all of our staff made it to work and we began assessing the impact to our clients by reaching out to see if we could help in any way. Normal payroll processing resumed and we printed and shipped packages to our clients with only modest delays in delivery times. We organized car pools for our staff due to the gas shortages we experienced and let staff go early to find open gas stations from a list we provided.
This is our story. What was yours? Let me know how you handled this emergency.
If you did not have a plan, the time to make one is now. Don’t wait for the next big storm to scramble to assemble a plan. Use the lessons you learned from this storm to serve as the foundation of your plan. Your clients, employees, and community count on you to be the economic engine of our region.
Small business expert Rob Basso is the founder of BassoOnBusiness.com, a web-based community dedicated to inspiring the entrepreneurial spirit and getting American businesses back on their feet. He is the president and owner of Advantage Payroll Services, the region’s largest independently owned payroll provider, and the author of The Everyday Entrepreneur. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to purchase your copy of The Everyday Entrepreneur today!