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Prepare Your Business for Emergencies

Make sure you have a disaster plan—and someone to carry it out when you can't.

If you sell regularly and have a significant amount of money wrapped up in your e-commerce business, it’s a good idea to ensure someone you trust has access to the right kind of information to act on your behalf in the event of an emergency.

I recently learned that my best friend of almost 30 years died. I’m unsure what life looks like without him and his amazing, compassionate way of looking at this world.

You may remember me talking about Eddy before. We worked together to raise money for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation in honor of my Dad’s death due to a brain tumor. You can learn more at

Whenever something startles you like the sudden loss of a loved one, you start to think about different memories and begin cataloguing them in your mind—thoughts of prom, college, Italy, motorcycles, Boy Scouts camp, volunteering, Yosemite, etc. One of the humorous memories I recall is how much Eddy and I hated opening mail and filing. Then it hit me: His family would have to unravel all of his work and financial paperwork—adding grief on top of already losing their son.

The week I lost him, I did a radio show about being prepared in your business. Not just for death, but for other emergencies like the flu, a power outage or hospital stays. You can listen to this message here.

Find your ‘Business Buddy’

One of the most important things to consider when creating an emergency preparedness plan is to choose a “business buddy.” This is someone you can trust to carry out any wishes you have for whatever circumstances happen. They may or may not know or understand your business, but they should at least be familiar with a computer, and be able to follow detailed instructions.

There are online businesses that can help you with documenting all of the information your business buddy will need. is a free service. For my own peace of mind, I have created these documents for my business buddy using Google Documents. This is a free online service that allows you to create documents, spreadsheets and more, right within your Google account. It is password protected, and you can choose to share it with as many or as few people as you like.

There are many emergency situations that can occur and one of the most evident in our everyday life is a computer crash

First, cover the basics

Before we go over what should be included in your emergency preparedness document, you’ll want to make sure anything legal is covered. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t tell you what to do, but make sure you have talked to your legal adviser about a will or living trust. You can find more information at LegalZoom.

There are many emergency situations that can occur and one of the most evident in our everyday life is a computer crash. So make sure you’re backing up your files. I have a two-pronged approach to doing this.

First, I use an automatic hard-drive backup. They have become so cheap it’s easy to have 1 Terabyte or more in your home office. The second thing I do in case something happens to my house is to have an offsite backup as well. For this I use Carbonite. It’s easy to set up, runs automatically behind the scenes and is a cheap insurance policy for only about $5 a month.

Consider the ‘what ifs’

The next part is to start working on your documents. Start by laying out what I call the “scenario game plan.” Possible scenarios include:

  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Hospital stay
  • Death
  • Power outage
  • Snow/ice storm
  • Flooding
  • Hurricane
  • Tornado
  • Fire
  • Earthquake

What would you want your business buddy to do in each of these situations? You’ll want to spend some time writing out the details.

Who should know?

Next, spend some time creating a contact sheet. This part of your plan includes not only how to contact people to let them know what happened, but should also include their relationships to you, the order in which they should be notified, and if you want these people to carry out certain tasks. This contact sheet should include:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Business buddy
  • Pastor or spiritual adviser
  • Doctor/dentist
  • Lawyer
  • Accountant
  • Insurance company
  • Employees—real and virtual
  • Vendors—including the phone number, e-mail and a specific contact

Ensure your buddy has access

Can you imagine someone who isn’t an eBayer trying to get into your eBay account with just a user ID?
The next part of the document is for your passwords. This is where a lot of people forget to include everything someone would need. Make sure you include the URL, user ID, password and process your business buddy will need to access the site(s). Can you imagine someone who isn’t an eBayer trying to get into your eBay account with just a user ID?

Here’s a reminder of just some of the places that require passwords:

  • Computer
  • Virus protection
  • E-mails
  • eBay
  • PayPal (include PayPal key information, if used)
  • VeriSign and/or other security sites
  • Online banks
  • Debit cards associated with these
  • Web sites—anywhere you’re a member, or belong to a community
  • Your business site

Financial planning

Make a list of your finances. Now, think about each of the scenarios above. It will help the situation immensely to know exactly what you would like your buddy to do with your financial list in each instance. Your financial list should include:

  • Bank—account numbers, and a specific contact, if any
  • Credit cards/debit cards
  • Savings (stocks)
  • Investments
  • Mail/bills—include if any of these are on automatic payments
  • Mortgage

Additional instructions

Here are a few more things to consider when you compile information for your business buddy:

  • Cash (emergency funds)
  • Photographs of property
  • Check your insurance policies and make copies for your business buddy
  • Combination to the safe
  • Where keys are kept

Also, make sure you include information about where to locate inventory, files for incoming inventory, and processes for unknown business steps like eBay and PayPal.

You can download the entire Emergency Preparedness Checklist at

About the author

Janelle Elms
Janelle Elms is a best-selling author, inspiring educator and visionaire of the OSI Rock Stars. You can hear her on wsRadio every Wednesday on Ask Janelle Radio. Learn the success information you need to grow your business at For step-by-step training on how to set up an eBay Store for maximum exposure and profit, visit One Percent Coach. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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