When the Lights Go Out

When the Lights Go Out


The recent power outages have highlighted a weakness in many small businesses… the lack of business continuity and disaster recovery systems.

Small business owners rarely take the time to document the risks to their business and make contingency plans for situations that cause interruptions to the smooth running of the business.

Yet it is small businesses that suffer the most at the hands of unforeseen circumstances.

Power outages are a case in point. I have spoken to many small business owners who simply could not conduct business during the recent power outages.

Think like a big business

There are two issues at play here. One is a mindset, and the other is the practical implementation of a business interruption policy.

Small business owners need to stop thinking like small business owners. If you want your business to grow and prosper you need to put systems and procedures in place like a “big thinking” organisation. Stop thinking it will never happen to you.

Stop making excuses that you are too busy. And stop thinking you can’t afford a backup plan.

The question you need to ask yourself is can you afford NOT to have a business continuity plan.

You need to weigh up the costs of implementing a business continuity plan versus the impact on your business.

Know the risks

The first step for every business is to think about, articulate and document the risks to your business. In the case of an extended power outage, what would the impact be on your business?

If you are in the restaurant business, or require refrigeration, or if the service you provide relies on power to offer the service, you absolutely have to have a contingency plan in place to continue operating in the event of a power outage.

No business is immune to the impact of a power outage. Telephone systems that rely on power can’t operate in a power outage. This means that potential customers contacting the business are unable to get through. How many potential customers could be lost in this time?

If they get through but can’t be transferred to the correct person, this has a negative impact on the company’s professionalism and image.

A major hiccough in the event of a power outage is access to computers and information stored on the server.

In addition, power surges and unexpected shut downs can lead to the loss of data.

At the very least, small businesses need to install a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) at the office. A UPS allows key equipment to operate without electricity for a limited period and allows you to safely shut down computers, etc.

But a UPS won’t get you back up and running in the event of an extended power outage.

Identify a solution

Depending on your business, you have two options. First prize is always a generator. It allows you to continue operating as normal and ensures the least interruption to your business.

The second option I recommend to small business owners, is to make use of laptop computers which have some battery power and are portable.

In the event of a power outage, the business can still run from another location – your employees’ homes / a coffee shop or an alternative venue where there is power.

For this solution to work, it is also important to store all your office documents “in the cloud”.

This means all documentation can be accessed from any remote site where there is power and an internet connection.

They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes. And in South Africa… power outages! Take action, and make sure your business is not left out in the dark.

Greg Mason
Greg Mason is the CEO of bizHQ – The Business Headquarters – and is one of the most experienced and acclaimed business and executive coaches in the country. He draws on his diverse experience in business, including accounting, HR, IT, strategy and business planning, change management, project management and programme management to assist businesses in identifying their business objectives and coaching them through a process to realise their potential.