Most of us have faced the computer “blue screen of death” at some point in our careers. How serious it is depends on the fault causing the problem, the help you can call on, and your backup situation. You do back up your PC/Mac don’t you? A computer fire is a different situation. Nothing is going to bring the machine on the right back to life. It’s not even a case of replacing a part or restoring a file. Do you have insurance to pay for a new machine? Will the insurance pay out fast enough?

What determines whether it’s a challenge or catastrophe

As with everything else in your business, whether a situation is a challenge or a catastrophe is really down to you. The ball is in your court. Let’s look at the key factors.


Many businesses carry on blissfully unaware just how close to catastrophe they are. I’m not talking about whether or not they back up their computers and files. It can be far more fundamental than that. For example, if you became incapacitated, say in a car accident, and ended up in a coma, would anyone have the legal capacity to manage your business or personal affairs? Could anyone pay your suppliers, your staff or deliver against your customers’ orders? You need to have appropriate lasting powers of attorney in place.

That’s just one example. The preparation you need to go through is to identify and assess the events could take place and how your business would cope with them. It’s a form of risk assessment. Here are some examples of events you might need to assess:

  • Owner incapacity
  • Computer failure
  • Web site hacking
  • Loss of premises
  • Loss of key staff
  • Failure of a key supplier/partner


Contingency plans

Once you have identified the threats the second factor comes in to play. The second factor is what contingency plans you have in place to mitigate or address the threats if they were to happen. The contingency for incapacity could be a lasting power of attorney. For the computer failure or blue screen it could be a combination of a support contract and backups. For a computer fire, it will be the same but you’ll probably need insurance to cover the costs of replacing the kit.

Contingency plans often involve costs. Costs to make sure there is little or no impact e.g. having spare computer equipment in case of failure. You will have to assess whether the additional cost to minimise the impact is worth it. Lost productivity for a day or two while new kit is acquired and configured may be less costly than having spare equipment lying around. That’s what you need to assess in your preparation and contingency plans.

Systems and processes

The third factor in determining whether you have a challenge or catastrophe is the level of systems and processes you have in your business. Let’s take the incapacitation situation again. An appropriate lasting power of attorney is key, but if the person you name in that power of attorney has no idea how to do things in your business it won’t be much use.

Well documented systems and processes enable your business to run without you. Even with you, the business will be more efficient, less prone to errors or mistakes and will enable you to spend more time working “on” the business instead of “in” the business. That’s the key to growing and scaling your business.

A local threat

One of the threats all Guildford based businesses should consider is the loss of premises and equipment due to flooding. Guildford sits on a flood plain and the river Wey has often breached its banks. At Christmas back in 2013 many businesses along the river Wey were flooded. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago I saw the river lapping at the lower windows of an office building in the town centre as I walked along the towpath.

The effects of climate change and global warming are only going to make things worse. That’s why I’m delighted we have Dr Colin Summerhayes coming to the Guildford Hub next week to talk abou that very subject.

The Guildford Hub Monday 19th February

Antarctica may be a long way away from us here in Guildford, but if that ice melts, our sea level goes up, and the Thames Barrier gets over-topped. Oooops! So, how has Antarctica’s climate been changing over the recent past? What effects have that change had on wildlife down there? As a side effect of CO2 emissions the Southern Ocean is acidifying. Will that affect the food chain? And what is likely to happen to Antarctica’s climate, ice and wildlife between now and 2100.

Book your place for the 19th February here


If you’re reading this blog after the date on which this talk was run, or you can’t make the date, don’t despair. All Hub talks are livestreamed in the Business Hubs Members Closed Facebook group and are then stored in the group for you to watch again and again at your convenience. All Hub members have access to our back catalogue of talks since we started livestreaming in the middle of 2016. It’s another huge benefit of being a Hub member.

Go to to see what’s on and sign up. Your first visit is free.

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