I TURNED my attention to this article shortly after the ground stopped moving on Thursday afternoon.

I enjoy earthquakes about as much as having to listen to electronic music or having to watch the Living Channel.

Earthquakes are also a good reminder of (a) the power of nature and (b) the need to plan ahead and have a business continuity plan.

When you are restricted in your ability to operate in any capacity, completing work and delivering to clients/customers can become an enormous challenge. So it's good to have a plan – especially when it comes to data and key information.

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I remember being on an extremely important project when the star of my team, who was half-way through his work, injured his hand rock-climbing. Because he was a subject matter expert in financial markets, it threw our entire team into a spin. We managed that situation because we were able to bring in another expert at short notice to finish the work and, when the team member eventually returned we encountered the miracle of voice recognition software. Essentially, he dictated all of his findings straight into his computer.

The plan B in that case was documented in our project plan – it was anticipated and we could quickly move to get things moving again and keep out client happy.

What do you have in place to manage the unexpected consequences of an event or loss of resource?

Most small businesses haven't considered what they would do should they be constrained in delivering service. Some have insurance, and that's great, but sometimes there are events or issues which arise which cannot be insured for.

We have friends in Christchurch who could not get into their places of work for weeks after the major earthquakes. While an earthquake could be insured for, the delay in accessing files, computers and other important materials couldn't.

A business continuity plan considers such an eventuality – it also takes account of things such as minimum operating standards to alternate sites where your business could operate should your current location be inaccessible.

Unfortunately, as we have seen in Christchurch and more recently Wellington, "she'll be right" and "number 8 wire" can only go so far. The businesses that thrived in those situations were the ones that were prepared.

I'm reminded of a Disney cartoon we as kids saw several times. It features a cricket who chastises his neighbour ants for storing up food for the winter – stating he had plenty of time (essentially he thought there wasn't a great deal of risk). Well, winter came early and, like many negative events, it caught the cricket by surprise.

To avoid a similar experience in your business, we can help you write and test a business continuity plan that is tailored to your needs.

Balance Consulting is a Whanganui consultancy specialising in business strategy, process excellence and leadership mentoring — contact Russell Bell on 021 2442421 or John Taylor on 027 4995872.