Fire Alarm – A Drill's Better Than the Real Thing

A fire alarm went off at our offices yesterday. It was just a drill, but as we all gathered outside and accounted for each employee according to our business continuity plan, it reaffirmed one of our core beliefs – the value of planning ahead for every possible scenario. We take some comfort knowing that if there were to be an actual incident that devastated our offices, things like files and client data are all backed up off-site, and as far as our day-to-day operations go, we have a specific plan of action to get back up and running as smoothly as possible.

It doesn’t matter how large or small your company is, a business continuity plan is the type of document that is critical to operations. The funny thing about it is, you will almost never think about it on a day-to-day basis, but in the wake of a catastrophic event, it suddenly becomes the most important document in existence for the business. We know exactly who is going to call 911; who will check each room to see that everyone is out; where we’re going to gather for a head count; and what we’ll do for office space. It’s blocked out hour by hour, day by day and week by week until things are back to normal.

Similarly, in all our dealings with clients, especially large corporations, financial institutions and government entities, we have been required to repeatedly turn in various certifications, authorizations and qualifications in order to be cleared to do business. Early on, after filling out the same or similar forms a dozen times, we realized how much time we could save by keeping an archive at the ready, properly organized by the type of authorization and with all the data ready to enter on other, similar forms for the future. What would be a time-consuming, wheel-spinning task is much more efficient and less labor-intensive thanks to a little pre-planning.

It doesn’t matter what size your company is. In fact, for more than 10 years our fore-thinking has enabled us to work with the likes of Bank of America and the U.S. government on a regular basis without missing a beat – even though on the surface they might seem out of our stratosphere. We don’t have whole departments devoted to filling out government forms. By looking ahead though, and anticipating clients’ needs, we are able to be just as responsive as if we did. When they ask for the necessary forms to do business, we can pull the trigger and provide the information they need.

These are the types of protocols that you don’t think of or even reference on any given day as you go about the business of running your business. But when you need them, you absolutely need them. It’s all about forward thinking. Don’t wait until the fire alarm goes off for real. See what you need before you need it and address the issue when you have time to, and not when you’re scrambling to play catch-up because a client is waiting for it or your office has burned to the ground.

Have you had a “Fire Alarm” moment? Let us know what types of activities you’ve had to deal with that have been – or could be – improved through intelligent planning.