Running a business is tough work. Much of your time is devoted to productivity, efficiency, and margins—the possibility of a crisis is usually an afterthought, if it’s even considered at all. Spending needed dollars on a “What if?” moment never seems that appealing, even when entry costs for the training are low.

What if there’s a . . .

power outage?
natural disaster?
sudden loss of employees?
code violation?
equipment failure?
data loss?

Have you practiced a simple fire drill? Do you have an evacuation plan? Does your business have a phone tree? Do you consider the impacts of external forces on your operations? On sales? On employees?

Business continuity planning is not a luxury

Ironically, the burden of normal business operations overshadows applying inexpensive and simple training exercises. In the event of a crisis, these exercises could salvage greater portions of the business and recoup time and money that would otherwise be lost.

For many companies the perception is that disaster recovery, crisis management, and business continuity planning are luxuries—the sort of thing reserved for large corporations with deep pockets. The thought of committing scant resources to planning, exercises, training, or disaster recovery still eludes most businesses today. While it is far easier to find time and money for development, marketing, and expansion, it is equally important that every company sit down and work through issues that will threaten viability.

Consider, also, what your company’s reputation is worth. Can you put a price on consumers’ trust and loyalty? As Knight and Pretty point out in their research reports, perception of how a corporation handles a crisis can affect its value. When evaluating the return on investment for a crisis management plan, ask yourself—what is the cost of doing nothing?

Having a plan, exercising the plan, and revising the plan for a whole business, a single division, or a department is the first step in being able to weather the storm. It’s just as important to plan for failure, as it is to invest in success. Stay ready, stay safe.

Cole Wieland is a professional firefighter, and a partner at Crisis Ready Group. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Crisis and Emergency Management from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.