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How to create a business continuity plan Featured

5:19pm EDT January 3, 2012
How to create a business continuity plan

As the flames engulfed Pitney Bowes Presort Services’ main Grand Prairie location last year, Darryl Cremer couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“When it was obvious that the building was going down in flames and it was going to be a total disaster, I was like anybody else and was in total shock,” the vice president and general manager says. “Everything was going through my mind like, ‘What’s going to happen here; what are the next steps that we need to do?’”

While it’s most businesses’ nightmare to see their building in flames, Cremer had a disaster-preparedness plan in place. After all the employees were accounted for, he could then get down to business.

They had a second site that had phones and fax machines and copiers, so they were able to set up shop quickly even though the main facility was destroyed. They also were able to route mail to this facility so that business wasn’t completely lost. As part of their disaster plan, they had tested that facility in the past and knew it worked well.

They were also able to use the facility to congregate all of their employees and use it as a central location for communications.

“You need to lead with a positive attitude and even though things look dismal at that moment. You certainly want to keep the employees calm and knowing that you may not know exactly what you’re going to do the next moment, but that it will be all OK, and that you’re all working for the same end results — get back to business as quickly as possible,” he says.

With employees on the same page, he then had to reach out to customers and business partners to make them aware of the situation and inform them of what the company was doing so they didn’t panic if they saw it on the news.

“Another huge benefit that we had was our customer information and contacts and employee information is all online, and we could get the clients’ information,” Cremer says.

As a result, within about six hours, the company had already contacted all of its customers and business partners.

At this point, Cremer knew that the company would be fine because of all the steps they had taken. He said that the other element that allowed them to move so quickly and respond so effectively to the situation was that their corporate office had set up a culture that empowered them to make decisions themselves.

“They empowered all of us to make decisions and not have to have a single source to make every decision,” he says. “We had good marching orders, and then we were able to go and make those things happen — no questions asked. We didn’t have time to review every decision that was being made, so empowerment of your operations team is essential.”

The company opened a new location last year and is in full swing again. While they don’t think a fire could strike twice, Cremer isn’t taking any chances. There’s more communication from the top down about the plan, the company is backing up information more frequently and having more regular fire drills for employees.

“We’re actually going through, step-by-step, our disaster recovery plan again and making fine-tuned adjustments to it and taking it much more seriously,” he says. “We are testing it. … We’re actually putting more emphasis on our disaster recovery plan and making sure people are aware of it.”

How to reach: Pitney Bowes Presort Services, (972) 352-5187 or (972) 623-3700 or www.pb.com

Create a disaster plan

When Darryl Cremer watched his Pitney Bowes Presort Services building going up in flames, he was in shock and never really thought it would happen to him. But just because he didn’t think it would ever happen didn’t mean he didn’t plan for it. Because he planned, they were up and running in a different location in a matter of hours.

“You need to plan in advance and always remember that even though you might not think it, it can always happen to you,” he says.

He says that every business needs to have a disaster recovery plan, but you have to think really hard on the logistics of how that would work.

“You may think you have a good recovery plan that would work for a short-term – maybe a week or two weeks — but take a look at if you had a total disaster, how would it affect your business if you were out for months and months?”

He says you also have to make sure your records are correct and accessible.

“Ensure you have very good, up-to-date client information and your employees and vendors and anyone else that supports you in your business,” he says. “And have it stored remotely because if it burns up, it doesn’t do you any good.”