Urge consulting clients to prepare for disasters

Statistics on businesses lost to disaster are overwhelmingly oppressive. If you have a stubborn client who resists preparing for the worst, help shed some light on reality. Without a plan, the chances of recovering from a disaster are small.

 At the risk of being predictable, now is as good a time as any to consider how many of your clients are ready for a disaster. The smart ones are, but what about the know-it-all stubborn ones who refuse to face the possibility that they could lose everything? In this case, all you can do is offer your services and hope they see the light. Right? Not quite. You might want to be a bit more aggressive than that.

Most businesses, especially the small ones, aren't prepared to respond when threatened. Should disaster strike your clients, will they be able to continue vital operations or will they just surrender? According to a study by the Center for Research on Information Systems (at the University of Texas), 50 percent of businesses that lose data in a disaster close permanently after disaster. Furthermore, 50 percent of businesses who manage to reopen after losing data in a disaster are gone within two years. That's scary!

It's up to you to share that information with your client and extend it in a local way if possible. Simply prepare a report that shows the impact of disaster on local business. Start with the Chamber of Commerce. They probably won't have statistics, but they can probably guide you to someone who does. Consider contacting the Department of Homeland Security if you have an office in your area. Make friends with your local librarian. These statistics are out there.

Make the report short because this type of client doesn't want to face this issue at all. Be as dramatic as you like. Don't just give the client a pie chart. Find a devastating picture or two because a picture is worth a thousand words.

Report these statistics to your client and ask the following questions:

  • How much revenue would you lose if disaster shut you down for just one day?
  • How much revenue would you lose if disaster shut you down for one week?
  • How long could you shut your doors before you close them for good?

Be prepared to compare your client's answers with the statistics you've gleaned from your research. Emphasize that most businesses that lose data to disaster don't recover.

Assessment is the next step and this process doesn't have to be complicated or expensive — after all, that's the real reason your client avoids the subject. Be practical, especially with the small clients. They can't pull thousands of dollars out of a magic hat to implement protection. Help them but don't overwhelm them; otherwise, you run the risk of pushing them further into the land of denial. But, here's an interesting statistic that might help: FEMA estimates that it costs 15 times more to recover from a disaster without a plan than with a plan — that's 15 times more folks! Who could recover from that?

It's irresponsible to be passive on the subject of disaster preparedness. You won't convince everyone, but you'll at least open some eyes to the potential.


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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