The Coffee Break Show with Vickie Helm

How to Integrate a Disaster Preparedness Plan for Your Small Business

January 31, 2022 Vickie Helm / Corey Harris / Julie Traxler Season 4 Episode 85
The Coffee Break Show with Vickie Helm
How to Integrate a Disaster Preparedness Plan for Your Small Business
Show Notes Transcript

Prior to Covid lockdowns few small businesses took the time to explore disaster planning for the eventuality of some unknown force that would make your business skip a beat or even destroy it. During lockdowns all small businesses were affected, many restaurants and businesses will never open their doors again.

Have we learned any lessons from the lockdowns? Have you taken steps to prevent a business catastrophe in the future; whether unexpected weather patterns, economic downturns,  disruptions to your industry, or the loss of a key person/employee?

In this episode of the Coffee Break Show, Business Development Strategists Corey Harris and Julie Traxler dive into the necessary steps you need to consider to bullet proof your small business NOW!

 It's never too early to start planning, or to complete an after action summary of lessons learned.

 3:54 How to prepare for business disasters?

 4:34 Building strong business foundations

 6:00 Who's the decision maker in your business?

 6:25 Document the process in your business

 10:09 What happens to your business if disaster strikes?

 14:15 Steps to Disaster planning

 19:18 How to maximize surviving a disaster in your business?

 23:14 Advice for couples in business together

24:55 Best place to start a business-


 8:38 Are you an owner driven business or a process driven business? Corey Harris

 10: 37 Start outward and work in ~ Julie Traxler

26:50 Assume good intent ~ Julie Traxler

Connect with Corey and Julie

Grab your copy of their book on Amazon
"Seriously Now What a Small Business Guide to Disaster Preparedness" 



 #capacity planning #businessgrowth #foundation #disasterplanning #operatingagreement #smallbusiness #disasterplanning #businessprocesses

 Coffee Break Show with Vickie Helm_1_28_22_with special guests Corey Harris & Julie Traxler


business, disaster, processes, people, pandemic, small business, disaster preparedness, customers, small business owners, revenue, swot, 


Vickie Helm, Julie Traxler, Corey Harris


Vickie Helm  00:01

Welcome, welcome, welcome. This is the Coffee Break Show. I'm Vickie Helm. Today we are going to rock your world. 


You're on the success secrets for business family and life channel. I am Vicki Helm. Today, you are going to learn about something that I think is singularly the most important topic that we can talk today. And I brought on some experts that are business development strategists. They are small businesspeople that help you design, scale, grow businesses. But today we're going to get narrowed down. We're going to talk about how to integrate a disaster preparedness plan for small business. I have Corey Harris and Julie Traxler with me, and I just want to say welcome to the Coffee Break Show.


Julie Traxler  01:01

Thanks for having us, Vicki.


Corey Harris  01:03

Yeah, thanks for having us.


Vickie Helm  01:04

Yeah, I'm very excited about the conversation we're going to be having today, 


Vickie Helm  01:40

Julian, Corey, just tell me, how did you guys start this? How did you even begin this that you have? 


Julie Traxler  01:49

We started SB Pace as a direct result of the pandemic. It sounds almost fairy tale-ish when we when we talk about it now. But when the pandemic started, both of us were doing our own independent consulting, and opportunities were quickly drying up. And we both had some savings. And so, we started calling on friends and family that are small business owners, because we have a lot of people in our network that own small businesses, and we wanted to see how they were positioned. And if there was anything that we could do to help them? Did they need help, either figuring out how long they could survive financially, what they needed to do with their team, could they pivot, like anything finding money, we were just offering out help to our network. And then they started telling other people, hey, call these guys. They know what they're doing. And it didn't take us long to realize, hey, there might be something here. 


And then at the very same time as launching the business, we decided to write the book. And so, we wrote a book on disaster preparedness and released that in the summer of 2020. So that's how we got started with the business.


Vickie Helm  02:52

And thank you. So, that Amazon book, and I want to talk about that. Because right now, I think the pandemic is just one thing that's happening. We also know the pandemic has caused a lot of other business, things that happen that are going to need this kind of disaster preparedness for businesses, the supply chain shortages that we're dealing with now, the fires and the floods, and the tornadoes and everything else. 


It's not just ripping small businesses that are brick and mortar, it's home-based businesses. It's everything. So let me ask you something. 


Q: What can we do to begin outside of everybody needs to get this book? I think the future is about being prepared for this. But what are the things that people need to look for? Right now? Let's say they were doing a SWOT assessment. Do we have this? Do we have this? How can we have those things in place? What are some of the things you think people need to do to prepare their business, whether online or offline, for the possibility of disaster?


Corey Harris  04:12

The it's funny that you mentioned the SWOT analysis, because really, looking in hindsight, how we named the book and how we kind of positioned the book, the actual disaster preparedness or the planning part of it is really like it's very secondary to the true core of the book, which is building a strong foundation for your business, building out the fundamentals that help create a strong business that can weather any most storms, let's say. 


So, it's performing that SWOT analysis to understand where you're strong, where you're weak, looking into the future to plan for things that might not have happened, but also, it's about building a strong team. It's about training. It's about making sure you have tools and resources in place, you've got these triggers, you can pull. If something happens, we can't plan for everything. But you can be prepared to address things. 


So, we talk a lot on our podcast and our radio show and blogs, everything that we do about training your team, giving them autonomy, empowering them to make decisions, because the last thing that you want when something's going wrong is to have to make every single decision.


Absolutely lean on your team and let them take care of everything that they can take care of. So, you can focus on the bigger picture. And that's a day-to-day operation. And in disaster


Vickie Helm  05:39

I just, I want to go deeper into that Corey, because I want you to say more about how we can prepare our teams. And, preparing that team for to make decisions that is that are critical, so that you're not the only one, making decisions. And I want to say I think this is really important. Everybody who owns a business thinks they have to be the sole decision maker. And I disagree with that. And I love your play on that. 


Q: And I'd like to hear a little bit more of what we can do to prepare our team and what we can do to prepare ourselves as leaders to listen to our team to hear a different point of view or someone else.


Corey Harris  06:21

So, you teed me up perfectly. Thank you, Vicki. So, we're gonna jump into one of my favorite topics, which is process. It's documenting the processes within your business. What's going on? Who's doing what, when they're doing it, you can find all of the bottlenecks, all of the gaps, all of the potential gaps, places that will break. Because when we say disaster preparedness, and everybody thinks pandemic or tornado. It could be losing a key employee. What happened? Somebody wins the lottery, and they don't show up. They get hit by a bus.


Vickie Helm  07:01

I've been hit by that bus.


Corey Harris  07:03

And they don't show up to work tomorrow, who's going to do their job? Do you even know what their job is? So, documenting the processes so that what's happening within your business. But that’s also including your team in that work. You get that feedback; you find out what they're doing that they hate doing that could be automated. 


You start saving money ahead of time. You start improving your efficiencies, while you have the time to do it, while you have the resources to do it, you're not scrambling to try and fix problems that you could have taken care of months ago.


Vickie Helm  07:36

Beautiful, I think those things are so important. And I'm wondering Julie, what are along with having those SOPs done? I think this is one of the areas where they ignore the business most, they get the business where it's profitability, profitability, profitability, and people aren't talking to each other. 

There's no cross training. There's no documentation of the systems and procedures. And it’s the leader who usually doesn't say, let's put these in place.


Q: How do we start the process of actually taking what Corey just said, and actually implementing it. Because that is one of the most important things. It's those details everybody loves to ignore.


Julie Traxler  08:24

it is one of the most important things. I also think it's the hardest transition for a small business to make, because one of the other ways that we like to call this or that… we named this it's 


an owner driven business instead of a process driven business


where the owner has their hands in everything, you're involved in every decision, and they become the bottleneck. Or a symptom of this would be listening to a business owner talk about how they're working all the time, and they're exhausted, and they can't really grow their business. And it's because they're too busy working in their business, that they can't work on their business. 


And so, really, it doesn't have to be. I hear process and I'm like, oh boy, here we go. People tend to think that process is this really complex, complicated, takes months and months and months to do. And it doesn't have to be. The reality is it can be as complex or as simple as you make it right? You can just use a piece of paper and map out this is what we're doing, write it down on a whiteboard and figure out like, what does it look like today? Where can we improve it. But also, who's responsible for those roles? 


So, starting simple, as simple as you possibly can take those critical processes…we tend to think that sales are the most critical of all processes, right? Because that's where you think that revenue starts, but that's usually not true. So, figuring out -is it the market? Is it the customer service? What we tell our clients is 


Start on the outside and work in.


 So, if it's the customer thing, go there first, right? Because in a disaster, or in a true emergency, you want to make sure that the customers have the communication. That the customers are either getting their services or their products, or they know what's happening, so that you're not losing them. 


And so rather than doing that clam up, and don't say anything, move that we want to do, our instincts tell us don't let the customers know. The reality is, people are so forgiving, and so embracing, if you just tell them what's happening, so start outward work in and keep it simple.


Vickie Helm  10:40

That's beautiful. As I'm sitting here, and I was listening to both of you, I have 18 businesses under my belt, and six of them have failed and 13 have been very successful. And one of the things that I found that was a failure, the reason it happened was, I didn't plan. Everybody plans for a slow growth to medium growth, they don't plan for the explosive growth. And we had such explosive growth. And we didn't have these things in place. And people don't understand that explosive growth can be a disaster, because you don't have these things in place. And I want to go there because I was like, oh, yeah, this is something that bit me in the butt, just what you're saying, Julie. 


That was something that really hit me in the butt. And I'm like, okay, when should we have these? Because once you have the SOPs or your plan, or your systems in place, you can tweak them. But if you don't have them in place, and things explode, which they will eventually that big curve. That's when disaster strikes. 


When do you start putting these things in place? How do you begin the process of thinking, is this person hired? Because scaling is another place where you have to tweak those systems you put in place for scaling. You're going to hit a disaster button. 


Q:  I don't care who starts, but could you say more about when they need to do this, how they need to do it? And at what levels? Because you said start outward? And come this way. And pretty soon it's inside your business, the inside guts of it? How is it that you begin to work these processes out from the start, not from the disaster point?


Julie Traxler  12:31

Well, now you're speaking my language, because my single biggest pet peeve is when I hear somebody pitching, that they're gonna teach somebody how to increase their revenue by 50%, or going to double it or whatever the  made up number is that they're giving. And all they're focusing on is closing more sales, and there's nothing underneath it to support it. Right? 


You have to think every single department inside your company is impacted if you are increasing your revenue, right? Everybody dreams of the hockey stick growth, not thinking you have to support that, you have to have customer service, you have to have logistics, you have to have product service, all those things. So, from a starting point, I'm actually going to defer to Corey for that answer. He's a much better expert at process than I am. I just like to pretend I know about it. But he's an expert on that.


Corey Harris  13:26

Yeah. The biggest thing there is capacity planning. And as a small business owner, the hardest thing to do is turn down sales, no need to turn down revenue, we're all scrambling like we're pinching pennies everywhere we can and we're looking at budgets, were figuring out which vendor can get put off a couple of days, because we need the cash flow is not quite there. 


And so, turning down revenue is heartbreaking. But you have to look at it in a long term scenario because you could take on business now but like you said, Vickie, you're gonna tank your business so that slow, slow, we're sustainable growth is the way that you want to go. 


Not saying that you can grow quickly. You need to have your internal processes though, when in disaster planning, you definitely want to have those external, the outward processes really documented. And a lot of that surround communication because that's the easiest way to control what's going on in and around your business is by controlling the communications. So there are no rumors, there's no nothing floating around that you can't control.


But when it comes to your day-to-day operations, understanding what your capacity is, how many clients, how many customers, how many units you can create. What's realistic? Do you have options to -let's say if you are storing a product, do you have options to get ahead of your sales forecast? Do you have storage? 

If you have all of these things; you need to be thinking about what your business is going to look like in six to 12 months? That's right months. But the thing is we can't predict the future. So, you create this plan to hit, here's my goal of 18 months, I'm going to need to hire this many more employees, I'm going to have to outsource this, I'm going to have to find a new vendor. That's another one, having backup vendors, because especially with supply chain issues these days, you bet you never know when somebody is going to tell you, oh, you needed that next week? it's going to be June. Yeah, that's doesn't help me at all. 


So having that is definitely important. But there's internal operations, and then adjusting the plan along the way. So, getting those processes built, and then every three months, six months, whatever makes sense. Because as you get closer to that end goal, that image is going to be a little clearer and a little clearer. And then you can adjust. And you have to be flexible, as we all know, just being an entrepreneur. Yeah, you have to constantly change direction, depending upon what's going on in your environment.


Vickie Helm  16:02

This is so key what you just said, Corey, because a lot of people don't even think about the future. That and even so far as the platform you're using, how many clients that platform can handle before you need to upgrade the platform or move to a different platform? Or even has a platform reimagined or redone specifically for you?  Is it 10,000 customers? Is it 100,000 customers?


I mean, if you don't know that, and you think, okay, I'm using this brand name software, and I'm starting my business, and now we're hitting seven figures and maybe your product’s somewhere between $10 and $50 and you have 1000s of clients. When does that capacity for that software need to upgrade? We have to look at those things now. And that's part of that long term planning. 


And what I just realized, Julie and Corey and this is hard for me to say because this is an ego CEO kind of thing. But you get to the point where you realize some of the disasters you create, because of lack of planning-  there doesn't need to be disasters. These are all the things that we don't want to look at, that we love to ignore. 


There's a point where if you have a business, you have to be out of your own way. The biggest disaster I see right now listening to Corey is, you could have planned this earlier, you could have been… now you're here. 


Q: So I want you to talk to the business owners, whether they're founders or whether they're small business or a couple run business, speak to the three biggest things they need to look at when they're starting out that they need to discuss, that is actually the most avoided aspects of setting up your business so that you don't have unnecessary disasters. And I think there needs to be a qualification, there's disasters, and then unnecessary disasters.


Corey Harris  18:30

Well, the first thing that I want to mention, because of how quickly people forget, like we are just getting out of this pandemic, maybe possibly, who knows? And everybody's just seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And they've just forgotten the past two years of misery that everybody has been dealing with. And as soon as things start getting better, they're not even going to start planning for the things that they could have prevented prior to this because very few people saw the pandemic coming and very few people were able to weather it very well. 


Everybody had to react really quickly. But knowing Okay, we just saw possibly like an Armageddon scenario for our business. What did we learn? 


My piece of advice is: anytime that you finish a project, you finished getting through a disaster  you've finished doing anything, stop and perform post a post mortem on it. Go look at everything that you did, who was involved, what was the outcome, the decisions that were made, the outcomes that occurred, what you would do differently? Things that you did, things you'd like, all of those things, review it all. It’s like performing a miniature SWOT on that incident, and find out again, all of those opportunities and threats that you can then take advantage of, or mitigate the next time something like that or similar happens to us. 


Julie Traxler  20:02

That's a good one, I love the SWOT. I'm actually going to go a little bit in a different direction. And I'm going to talk about being hyper focused, right. As small business owners, we tend to want to rush things. Like, oh, hey, I have an idea, I have an idea, I have the idea. 


And we frequently forget that the smaller and more specific you can get on who your customer actually is right? The more you can narrow that…if you can fish from the smallest pond possible, you're going to have much greater success. 


So, take that one thing really small it down as much as you can. Get really, really good at it, and expand from there. And when you're really, really good at it, you're going to have your processes documented around it, you're going to understand everybody's roles inside the company, and you're going to understand what your customers want and need, and you're going to listen more to your customers. 


And so, we tend to think that when you're looking at a smaller group, one of the most common things Corey and I hear when we're  working with entrepreneurs is everybody's my customer. And it's like, well, then nobody's your customer, right? So, figure out who your customer truly is. Talk to them, market to them, and really listen to them, and grow and expand from there. But by doing that hyper focused piece, you'll have stronger processes around what you're doing and it’s much easier to grow.


Vickie Helm  21:32

Beautiful, beautiful, I love that. I want to go into the focus piece a little bit more, I want to talk about married couples right now. And I want to go into the 3Ds: death, divorce, or disability.  In planning, a lot of people when they start a business, husband/wife team, the wife is always gal Friday, she does everything behind the scenes, he does the sales and is in front of it.


I just want to give you an example, I have a friend of mine who with her husband had an upscale restaurant for very, super profitable 13 and a half years. And then he suddenly died. Disaster! They didn't have things in place at all. 


And what happens with a husband-and-wife team is that you not only lose the person that you love, your spouse, but you lose 50% of your firepower in your business overnight, just in that instant. And when you get to the point where you have to have some sort of plan for that kind of disaster. What can couples who are in business put in place right now that is going to help them through any kind of the 3Ds or disaster? It could be a car accident then 50% of your firepower is down for eight to 12 weeks. And that can endanger a business if you don't have certain things in place.


Q: And I'm wondering what kind of suggestions would you have for a couple run businesses?


Julie Traxler  23:14

I think the one of the most beneficial things that couples can do is understanding what the other person does, right? So, you don't need to know how to do everything that your partner doesn't. And this really is, I guess it's not specific to a couple run businesses as much as when there's two partners, and they're running a business, we are understanding at least what the other person does, what their strengths are. 


And then really knowing how to access everything, right? So, if  one person in our business core is responsible for process, he has finances, and he really handles technology. So, I have the passwords to everything. If something happened, I can we can still continue on. 


One of my favorite things that we do in our business is every week we have a continuous improvement meeting, right? Where we sit down, and we learn what's a part of the business? And we just take a little piece, it doesn't matter. It's an hour long. We figure out how can we improve that? What can we do better? And that really helps us understand more holistically how the business is functioning, and how we can get better. 


But one of the things that’s helped us. In the very near future, Corey is gonna be stepping away a little bit more from SB pace, because he's opening a restaurant, right? So, I am taking on more things, but we're also figuring out what does that mean in terms of how we can better serve our clients? Do we have to look at different services or less services or what does that mean? So, I think the communication part, but understanding the role of both people inside of the business is really key.


Corey Harris  24:52

And I want to just add to that because it doesn't matter if it's a business partnership or a personal relationship or whatever. Nobody starts one of those thinking that they're going to hate that person in three to five years from now. So, when you start any kind of business partnership, you want an operating agreement in place, you want it written down. And that's going to define roles, definitions, everything that goes into that business. So that if and when things go south, because businesses fail, partnerships break up, people get divorced, you want to make sure what's going to happen to that business. And who's responsible for what. You're not going to get bogged down, and just years of litigation and counter suits and all of that. It's just a clean break, hopefully, in theory, but also defining those roles up front really helps keep people in their lane, so you're not stepping on each other's toes.


 Of course, you want to help where you can help. But if it's process, that's my thing. If it's marketing, social media sales, that's Julie's thing. I'll help when needed, and vice versa. But it's not expected that I own any of that unless I say I'm going to own this particular task.


Julie Traxler  26:13

Yeah, I want to say one other thing. This is just relationships in general. And I know, I'm pretty confident saying both of us have to remind ourselves of this, on occasion, assuming good intent, right? Yeah, he can say something to me. And it can be, it almost never would be something that he would say verbally, it's going to come in a written form. And I'm going to add tone and attitude to it in my head, and I'm going to just flip it, I'm going to be so angry… to take a step back and remind myself that he wouldn't say this to me to be a jerk. Assume good intent.The other person is trying to help. And sometimes you just have to check your ego at the door. Or remember, I know this person, and I know how they operate. And I know why I got into business with them. And so, I have to give them the benefit of the doubt.


Vickie Helm  27:07

Yes, yes, yes, yes. I think that's so important. Because how we hear it in our head and how they were meaning it's so vastly different. And if you're too tired, or too cranky, or whatever it is, you put meaning on it, that doesn't exist. Thank you for that. I mean, Julie, that is something that we have to do give benefit of the doubt, always, always, always be quick to forgive. 


Q: How can people contact you? How can they be connected to your podcast? How can they get your book on Amazon, right?


Julie Traxler  27:40

Alright, so our book is called seriously now what a small business guide to disaster preparedness, we wish we would have picked a longer title, but we ran out of room on the cover. So that's the book, it's available on Amazon. It is a number one Amazon bestseller.


 And it comes with a great digital workbook that they can download off of our site, like walks them through all these exercises, everything they need to know they can find it., including our podcast, which is called biz quick, which we drop new episodes every Tuesday and Thursday. We have a radio show every Thursday morning at 9am. Eastern on the voice America business channel called the feed the chaos.


Vickie Helm  28:20

Fantastic. Alright, I have one last question. 


Q: And I'm wondering, what kind of state of business do you think we're gonna see over the next year, maybe two years? What's your opinion about the seas of business and what people could prepare for? 


Corey Harris  28:46

I think it's gonna be a lot of the same, everybody keeps hoping that we're gonna see the end of something, I don't think that it's what we're dealing with now, it's going to shift. There's going to be a problem. There are all sorts of cascading problems that we haven't seen yet that are going to pop up and we're going to have to deal with down the road. So, I don't think that in the next 18 to 24 months,  things are gonna go back to “normal” We are living in this world, and you just have to be flexible and be willing to adapt. Yes.


Vickie Helm  29:24

This is why this show is so important. 


Julie Traxler  29:30

I was gonna say I think 2022 is going to be a really tough year for a lot of small businesses. I think those supply chain issues, the constant fluctuations in what's happening with COVID. Is it still a pandemic? Is it not? Is it just the flu mask mandates to everything? I think there's a lot of mixed messaging, a lot of confusion and, unfortunately a lot of divisiveness in the country right now. 


And so, it makes it a little bit tough for small business owners to kind of find their footing and stick with things. So, I think 2022 is probably going to be tougher than 2020 or 2021. In all honesty.


Vickie Helm  30:10

Yeah, there's a part of that I agree with. I want to talk to you out in the audience right now you do not have to suffer alone. You do not have to be going to bed with anxious feelings. You need to go out and get some help right now from Corey, and Julie, who can actually assist you in getting through these kinds of waves in disasters. 


I continue to see an uncertain future. There isn't a sense of flatland, stasis in business. We're going to see highs and lows, highs and lows. And if you're in that low point, right now, if you're in this, the reason we have these experts on this show is so that you can reach out and get some help. 


And so, what is it Go get the book on Amazon: 


Get in contact, don't lose another night asleep. And, and don't  be afraid to ask for help. Go get it right now. I want to let this has been the Coffee Break Show. I am so excited to have Korean Julian. I hope you have the best business year ever. And in order to do that, read that book. And I'll see you next Wednesday on the coffee break show. All right. Talk to you later.